How to Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan

How to Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably heard someone tell you to get pre-approved for a home loan. However, you may not know what a pre-approval is or how to get a letter of your own. In light of that, we created a guide to this process below. Keep reading to learn more about what it means to be pre-approved and what you need to know about this process before starting your home buying journey.

What is a pre-approval?

In the mortgage business, pre-approval is a process in which your lender vets your finances in order to see how much they could potentially approve you for in a loan. Specifically, during this process, your lender looks at your income, assets, and credit score in order to determine which loans you may be a good candidate for and what your interest rate may be.

Once will have completed this process, they will issue you a letter that you can show to the seller when you’re ready to submit an offer on a home. The letter essentially acts as proof that you are considered financeable by a reputable financial institution. These days, many real estate agents and sellers won’t consider an offer complete unless it comes with a pre-approval letter attached.

What’s the difference between pre-qualification, pre-approval, and pre-underwriting?

In truth, there are three different ways to estimate how much you might be able to be approved for in a home loan. However, there are some key differences between each of them. We have laid them out below for your consideration.


Getting a pre-qualification is the simplest way to understand how much you may be able to be approved for in a home loan. This process involves submitting estimates of your income, debts, and assets to a lender. This process can usually happen very quickly, but since the figures are based on estimates, pre-qualification is considered less reliable than the two other methods on this list.


Pre-approval is the most common method that people use to estimate how much they could be approved for in a loan. This method involves having a letter take an initial look at your finances and run a credit check. Based on that initial data, the lender is often able to estimate the maximum amount that they would approve you for in a loan.


If you want to take things a step further, you could also consider pre-underwriting. At its core, pre-underwriting involves getting fully approved for a loan before you even submit an offer. Obviously, this version of approval requires the most legwork. However, it can be useful, especially in hot markets.

If you’re interested in pre-underwriting, consider Embrace Home Loan’s Approved to Move™ program. Being Approved to Move is as close as you can get to submitting a cash offer while still obtaining financing. It can make all the difference in a multiple-offer situation.

How to get pre-approved for a home loan

Now that you understand what a pre-approval is, the next step is to learn how to get one of your own. To that end, we’ve listed out the steps in this process for you below:

1. Gather your financial documents

Since getting a pre-approval hinges on the lender being able to vet your financial situation, you’re going to need to provide them with some financial documentation. In particular, you will need the following documents:

  • Two years of W-2s
  • Your most recent pay stub (with your year-to-date income listed)
  • Two years of tax returns (if you’re self-employed)
  • Any recent statements for your bank accounts or other assets
  • Your license or state/federal-issued photo ID
  • Your social security number

2. Bring them to a lender

Once you have all these documents in hand, you can bring them to your lender. Typically, your lender will also ask for your approval to run a credit check, which will be recorded on your credit report. After, you give them that approval, you should be good to go.

3. Wait for your pre-approval letter

Next, all you have to do is wait. Every lender will have a different turnaround time for issuing pre-approval letters. Some lenders can do it in as little as a few days, while others may take a week or more.

4. Start submitting offers

Once you have a pre-approval letter in hand, it’s time to start shopping for homes. Typically, Your average pre-approval letter is good for a period of 30 days, so you’ll want to start shopping as soon as possible.

The bottom line on getting pre-approved for a home loan

In today’s real estate market, getting a pre-approval is basically a requirement. With that in mind, if you’re thinking of searching for a home in the near future, you’re going to want to get a pre-approval letter of your own. To that end, use this post as your guide to the process. Armed with this knowledge, you should have a much better idea of what it takes to get pre-approved for a home loan.

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By Tara Mastroeni / January 28th, 2022 / Categories: / Tags:

Tara Mastroeni

Tara Mastroeni is a real estate and personal finance writer. She has a BFA in Media Production from Emerson College. Her work has been published on websites such as Forbes, Business Insider, and The Motley Fool. She has also been featured as a subject matter expert on Innovators with Jane King and the American Trends podcast. Find her at or on Twitter at @TaraMastroeni.