Getting home loan pre-approval makes the property buying process easier. Here's how it works.
When a well-organised home buyer is getting serious about purchasing a property, they approach a lender and get pre-approval. It's not a compulsory step, but it gives you a better idea of how much (if anything) a lender is willing to lend you.
What does it mean to be pre-approved for a mortgage?
Mortgage pre-approval is an initial assessment from a lender indicating how much you may be able to borrow. It requires you to submit a brief application, usually online, and provide financial information for the lender to verify.
Some lenders call it pre-approval, conditional approval or approval-in-principle.
But pre-approval does not mean full approval. You may submit a full application later only to be rejected. But pre-approval gives you a better idea of how much you can actually borrow. It means taking the first step, and it shows a potential seller that you're serious about buying.
The smart home buyer arrives at an auction or inspection with a mortgage pre-approval and increases their chances of a successful purchase.
How long does pre-approval last for?
Most lenders can issue you a pre-approval lasting anywhere between three and six months. This gives you time to hunt for properties and get your actual application together.
Is pre-approval binding?
No. Getting pre-approval doesn't mean you have to borrow any amount of money from the lender. And the lender has no ultimate obligation to lend money to you. But it's a good start.
How do I get pre-approved?
Follow these steps to get your mortgage pre-approval:
- Compare mortgages and find a suitable lender. This will also give you an idea of what kind of mortgage you're looking for.
- Do a budget and get a rough idea of how much you can afford to borrow based on your income, expenses and deposit size.
- Review your finances and gather mortgage documents to prove your identity, income and employment.
- Complete the lender's pre-approval process.
How long does it take to get pre-approved?
With many lenders offering online pre-approval, the whole process can take hours rather than days.
Online pre-approval is usually a system-generated process that is very quick but doesn't involve a qualified credit assessor reviewing your pre-approval application.
Some lenders may offer this, while others may require a fuller assessment that involves a lender's credit department. This usually involves a credit report.
Your lender may offer one or both versions of pre-approval, and you might still be able to apply entirely online.
What are the benefits of pre-approval?
Pre-approval brings the following benefits:
- You can get a more realistic idea of your borrowing power. This keeps you focused on properties you can afford.
- It signals your seriousness to sellers. Pre-approval strengthens your negotiating position when it comes time to agree on a price. You will be considered a preferred buyer, similar to a cash buyer, and having a lender's seal of approval in place can help you win a bidding war against others who may not qualify.
- A pre-approval can also reduce stress by helping to speed up the documentation process once you've found a home.
When should I apply for pre-approval?
You should get pre-approval once you've done your initial research. You should already have an idea of your borrowing power, your price range and the areas you're looking to buy in. Once you start looking seriously at properties with the intent to purchase then it is time for pre-approval.
What comes after pre-approval?
Once you find a property to buy, you need to get full or unconditional approval. This requires a more detailed application.
You should keep in mind that pre-approval doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get a home loan. The following need to happen first:
- The lender must conduct a valuation of the property and be satisfied that you haven't paid too much
- You need to provide a contract of sale
- You shouldn't change jobs halfway through the process
Once your application is approved, your lender will explain all the fees and charges involved in establishing your loan and answer any questions you may have. Once this is completed, it's time to draw up the loan documents. You’ll need to read your loan contract carefully before signing, and your lender will check that you’ve filled out everything correctly.
Your conveyancer or solicitor can then review the contract of sale, before you and the seller can sign a copy. Once a settlement date has been arranged, your lender will provide confirmation of your loan details. This is also the time at which you can expect to be charged for stamp duty and registration costs.
Then it’s time to start managing your loan and, most importantly, this is also the time you get the keys to your new home.
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