Getting preapproved for a mortgage is an essential step in the homebuying process. Before you start house hunting, it is crucial to know how much you can afford and whether you qualify for a mortgage. The preapproval process involves gathering your financial information and submitting it to a lender for review. But how long does it take to get preapproved for a mortgage? The answer depends on several factors.
Understanding How a Mortgage Preapproval Works
Before you start home shopping, it’s important to assess your financing options and know what you can afford. A mortgage preapproval is the first step toward purchasing a home as it provides a clear picture of your borrowing power. It is an evaluation by a lender that determines the amount of mortgage you qualify for based on your financial circumstances, including your credit score, employment, income and debt. With a mortgage preapproval, you will know your purchase price and loan amount for your new home, which will allow you to focus on properties that you can comfortably afford.
A mortgage preapproval also gives you a competitive edge when you make an offer on a property you like. It signals to the seller that you are a serious and qualified buyer who can secure financing to purchase the property. By contrast, homebuyers who do not have a preapproval letter may face challenges in a competitive market as their offer may be passed over in favor of buyers with preapproved financing.
A preapproval letter can be issued quickly, often in as little as 24 hours. Even better, you're not required to put up your down payment during the prequalification process. Getting a mortgage preapproval is not only a vital step, but also a fairly accessible step to take before starting your home shopping process.
Keep in mind that obtaining a prequalification is not a guarantee of a mortgage loan, and you will still need to complete the mortgage approval process and meet all the lender's requirements.
How Long Does it Take to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage?
The answer to how long it takes to get preapproved for a mortgage depends on several factors, including the lender and the applicant's financial situation. Generally speaking, the preapproval process can take anywhere from one to 10 business days.
Some lenders will preapprove you after a credit check based on the personal information you provide. Others want to review a full application and all of your required documentation.
To speed up the process, it's important to have your financial documents in order, including recent pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. If you have any outstanding debts, it's wise to pay them off before applying for preapproval.
What Do You Need for Mortgage Preapproval?
Because each lender takes its own approach to preapproval, the exact documents you need vary by lender. The best approach is to gather all the documents you’ll need to get a mortgage and keep them organized and ready to send to potential lenders.
It might take a little time, but getting organized will make the process less stressful in the long run. Here is a checklist of documents to gather:
- Pay stubs for the last month
- W-2s and employment history for the past two years
- Tax returns for the past two years
- Bank statements for the past two months
- Documentation of any other sources of income (child support, spousal support, etc.)
- Documentation of the source of your down payment
- Investment fund or savings account statements showing two months of ownership
- For gift funds, ask for a letter from the person or organization gifting the funds. The lender may also need documentation from the gifter showing their ownership of the funds, like two months of bank statements.
- Proof of identity, like a government-issued ID
- Your Social Security number
- Documentation of your name change if it’s recent (court documents, marriage certificate or divorce decree)
- Certificate of completion for a home buyer education class if you anticipate applying for a loan that requires one
Keep in mind that in some situations, you might need even more documentation. For example, those who are self-employed may want to gather one or two years of bank statements, two years of business returns and your most recent profit-and-loss statement in addition to the standard documents. This is because you want to show your true income to lenders. Your tax returns don’t always reflect your actual income because of your business deductions.
Mortgage Preapproval Process
While each lender has a different preapproval process, it generally plays out in the following steps:
Contact Mortgage Lenders
Mortgage lenders will assess your credit score, income, assets and debts to determine your eligibility for a loan. The lenders will then provide you with a preapproval letter indicating the maximum amount of money you can borrow. It's essential to compare different lenders' offers to ensure you are getting the best mortgage rates and terms. Look at the loan options and interest rates. Keep in mind that the rate you’re offered might be different based on your credit score and other factors.
Decide on a Home Loan Lender
Keep in mind that at this point, you’re not making a commitment and neither is the lender. The lender says that it will likely approve you once it verifies your information. You can still decide to work with another lender.
Gather Your Documents for Mortgage Prequalification
Gathering your documents and financial information can take time. You will need to provide proof of income, employment and assets as well as your credit score and history. Expect lenders to conduct a credit check and look into your credit history as well.
Keep in mind that different lenders will have their own document requirements, so make sure to double-check all forms.
Complete the Preapproval Mortgage Application
Many lenders offer an online application for prequalification, which helps to speed things along. Ask questions if there’s anything on the application you’re uncertain about.
Your lender will review your application and determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and how much you can borrow. The preapproval process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the lender's workload and the complexity of your application.
Receive and Review Your Mortgage Preapproval Letter
If you’re approved for more than you’re planning to spend, ask the lender to adjust the preapproval letter. You don’t want to give home sellers a preapproval letter that shows you can afford more than you’re offering. You want to provide a preapproval that matches your offer. Have your real estate agent review the letter as well to make sure it provides enough information to sellers.
Best Mortgage Lenders for Preapproval Process
1. Best Overall: Quicken Loans®
Quicken Loans offers a straightforward online preapproval process through Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®. It has award-winning customer service and it’s been ranked at the top for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power for 10 consecutive years.
You can easily chat or call and talk with an expert if you have any questions about getting preapproved. Quicken Loans offers extensive educational materials on its website so it’s a great resource for a first-time home buyer.
2. Best for Self-Employed Borrowers: New American Funding
New American Funding doesn’t operate like a traditional bank. With several mortgage options, the firm works best for self-employed homebuyers by offering what’s called a “non-qualified” mortgage.
The non-QM mortgage allows you to submit a year of tax returns for both personal and business filings. You can support your mortgage by proving you have the assets necessary to afford the home, bypassing the traditional paystub approval process used for the majority of homebuyers.
In addition, you can access conventional, FHA, VA, USDA and I CAN mortgages, allowing you to tailor the terms of the deal to your situation. Refinancing and home equity line of credit (HELOC) options are also available. Call the firm or email for more information.
3. Best for an Online Mortgage Process: Better.com
Better.com offers one of the quickest preapprovals around — 3 minutes for a basic preapproval and 20 minutes for a verified preapproval. Better offers a completely online mortgage experience. It also doesn’t charge any lender fees, which can involve significant savings. Its experts are available at any time if you have questions along the way.
4. Best for Veterans: Veterans United
Veterans United gets rave reviews from its borrowers — for good reason. It offers clear information about the preapproval process. Representatives are available around the clock to make sure you can get information when you need it.
You can start the process from the Veterans United website or by phone. Veterans United is a top VA lender, which means it has the expertise to walk you through the entire VA loan process.
What if You’re Denied a Mortgage Preapproval?
It’s possible for a lender to deny you at the mortgage preapproval stage. But it’s important not to give up at this point. With time and effort, you can position yourself to qualify for a mortgage.
The first step is to talk to the lender to find out why you were declined. Lenders will send a letter if they used your credit score to deny your preapproval. The letter will include which credit score it used to make its decision and how to get a free copy of your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy when the information is used to decline your application.
Once you have your credit report in hand, review it for errors. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers a review checklist to make sure you look at all the details. If you find mistakes, you will need to correct them in writing by contacting the credit reporting agency and the source of the mistake.
For example, if a company claims you made a late payment and you have proof you didn’t, write a letter explaining the error. Include a copy (not the original) of your proof of payment like a bank statement or cleared check.
You’ll also want to look for areas to improve. For example, if you have high credit card balances, you may want to pay them down to 30% or less of your credit line. Let’s say you have a card with a $1,200 limit. If you can, pay it down to $400 or less.If you’re not sure where to start, consider working with a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counselor. These counselors can review your financial situation and help you decide on concrete steps so you can get preapproved for a mortgage. You can find a counselor by calling 800-569-4287 or by visiting the CFPB website.
Should I Get Preapproved?
Getting preapproved helps you know exactly what you qualify for before you start home shopping. It also helps you make stronger offers, which improves your chances of buying your dream home.
For more information on the mortgage process, as well as info on programs for first-time home buyers and more, check out our mortgage guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it typically take to get preapproved for a mortgage?
The length of time it takes to get preapproved for a mortgage can vary, but most lenders will generally return a decision within one to three business days.
What factors impact the time it takes to get preapproved?
A few factors that can impact the time it takes to get preapproved include the lender’s workload, the complexity of the applicant’s financial situation and how quickly the applicant submits all required documentation.
How important is preapproval for homebuyers?
A preapproval can be an important tool for homebuyers because it gives them a better understanding of how much they can afford to borrow and therefore what price range they should be looking at. It can also make the homebuying process go more smoothly.
Do I need to choose a specific property before getting preapproved?
No, you do not need to have a specific property picked out before getting preapproved. However, knowing your loan amount can help you focus your home search on properties that are within your price range.
Get Ready for Take Off
Rocket Mortgage® is an online mortgage experience developed by the firm formerly known as Quicken Loans®, America’s largest mortgage lender. Rocket Mortgage® makes it easy to get a mortgage — you just tell the company about yourself, your home, your finances and Rocket Mortgage® gives you real interest rates and numbers. You can use Rocket Mortgage® to get approved, ask questions about your mortgage, manage your payments and more.
You can work at your own pace and someone is always there to answer your questions — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Want a fast, convenient way to get a mortgage? Give Rocket Mortgage® a try.