How Long Is a Preapproval Good For? | What Is a Mortgage Preapproval? | How to Get Preapproved | Average Timeline | Regular Approval | Does Preapproval Hurt Your Credit? | How To Increase Preapproval Amount | Can You Get an Underwritten Preapproval?
A mortgage preapproval letter is typically good for 60 to 90 days. After 90 days, you’ll likely have to reapply.
A preapproval letter tells sellers that you’re a qualified buyer. Your lender will do a hard credit check and examine your financials to determine how much of a mortgage they’re willing to extend to you. A preapproval letter carries a lot of weight and shows sellers that you mean business.
This is especially important in hot markets, where you’ll compete against more buyers and bidding wars are common. A preapproval letter can get you to the top of the pile!
If you’re planning to buy a house, a trustworthy real estate agent can recommend lenders in your area and advise you on whether preapproval may help you prepare a winning offer.
What Is a Mortgage Preapproval?
A mortgage preapproval is a document from your lender that states that they’re willing to loan you a certain amount of money to buy a home.
Getting preapproved means that your lender has looked into your finances and determined that you’d qualify for a mortgage in the given amount, so sellers take it very seriously.
Keep in mind: Your chances of being denied a mortgage after getting a mortgage preapproval are pretty low, but not nonexistent. A preapproval is not an ironclad guarantee — the home you buy would still have to meet certain criteria, or your financial situation might change radically between the time they issue the preapproval letter and when you actually buy a home.
|🔎 Prequalification vs. Preapproval
Prequalification and preapproval are similar — both mean that you are likely to get approved for a mortgage — but, in short, getting a preapproval is much better.
Getting a prequalification doesn’t require any verification of your financial information. Lenders only use a soft credit pull, so prequalification gives you (and sellers) a general idea of how much of a mortgage you might qualify for, but it’s just an estimate.
Preapproval involves more underwriting — your lender actually confirms your financials and does a hard credit pull. A preapproval carries more weight with sellers, since it’s a more authoritative statement about your financial situation.
How Long Is a Preapproval Good For?
Mortgage preapproval letters are typically valid for 90 days, though lenders sometimes issue preapprovals that expire after 30–60 days.
If your financial situation changes drastically — for good or bad — it can affect how much of a mortgage you’ll qualify for. As a result, the expiration date for your existing preapproval letter may change. For example, if you lose your job or win the lottery, the mortgage preapproval you got last month isn’t really relevant anymore.
If your preapproval expires, you can simply go through the process again and get another one. In some circumstances, you may actually want to get a new preapproval, even if your previous one hasn’t expired yet — for example, if your credit score has significantly improved or you got a big raise at work.
How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage
1. Choose a Lender and Mortgage Type
Consult with several different lenders to find out who’s offering the lowest fees and rates. You could even go through prequalifying with several lenders to compare their estimates.
Once you’ve settled on a lender, you have to decide on a mortgage type. You’ll have lots of options here — everything from a conventional, fixed-rate mortgage, to an adjustable-rate mortgage, to government-backed loans like FHA or VA mortgages.
The best kind of mortgage will depend on your financial circumstances, as well as the home you’re trying to buy. Your agent can help you pick a good lender for you and your circumstances.
2. Submit Documents Needed for Mortgage Preapproval
Because preapproval requires a deep dive into your financial situation, you’ll have to submit a lot of documentation to your lender. Here are some of the documents needed for mortgage preapproval:
- Photo ID like a driver’s license or passport
- Bank statements from several previous months (including checking, savings, and retirement accounts)
- W-2s from the past several years
- Paycheck stubs from the past several months
- Documentation of any other income, like rental or investment revenue, child support, or commissions
- Documentation of any debt you currently have or have recently taken on
- Any court records related to bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce
- Letters from anyone gifting you money for a down payment
- Current landlord contact information (if applicable)
3. Include Your Preapproval Letter in Home Offers
Show your preapproval letter to sellers, especially when you submit offers!
In hot markets, sellers will sift through the many offers they receive and rank them in order of how serious and solid they are. Offers with preapprovals will generally go to the top of the pile.
We recommend working with your real estate agent to make sure your preapproval letter is included with any offers. An experienced agent will help you make your offers as competitive as possible to help you land you your dream home.
Can You Get an Underwritten Preapproval?
Yes! An underwritten preapproval is the best preapproval you can get, and acquiring one can dramatically speed up the purchase process.
Underwriting is the process a lender undergoes to evaluate your total financial situation and assess how much of a risk it would be to give you a loan. It typically takes place after both parties sign the purchase agreement.
So, an underwritten approval, sometimes called pre-underwriting, means your lender has already gone through the entire underwriting process before issuing your preapproval — potentially shaving weeks off the closing process, which can be very enticing to a motivated seller.
An underwritten preapproval can also help you compete in heated bidding wars, or against cash buyers, since your financing is essentially guaranteed.
How Long Does It Take To Get Preapproved?
Getting a preapproval can take as little as one day, or as much as a week.
A lot will depend on your lender — if you submit all the required paperwork up front and your financial situation is fairly straightforward, you can speed up the process significantly.
On the other hand, it can take longer if you don’t have the necessary documents or you have an unconventional financial situation that requires an income audit.
How Long Does It Take To Get Approved Regularly?
Getting approved for a mortgage is a complicated process that can take several weeks.
Once the seller accepts your offer, your lender will start the underwriting process. Conventional underwriting takes 20–45 days.
During this period, your lender will do a deep dive into your financial situation, looking at your debt, your assets and savings, your credit history, your income, and your tax history. They’ll also order an appraisal of the home to make sure it’s actually worth the amount of the mortgage you’re applying for.
The best way to speed things up and avoid delays is to be prepared to submit any relevant financial documents and to maintain your financial situation as best you can — don’t change jobs, default on any debt, or make any huge purchases.
Does Getting Preapproved Hurt Your Credit?
A preapproval is a hard credit inquiry, which will probably lower your credit score slightly.
There’s no real way to get around this. The lender needs to do a credit check to assess your financials. A soft inquiry, which wouldn’t lower your score, just isn’t authoritative enough for a preapproval.
The upside is that the effects of a hard credit inquiry come off your credit report after two years.
|💡 Expert Tip: If you’re going to get multiple preapprovals from different lenders, try to have them all processed within the same 45-day timeframe, so they’ll count as a single credit inquiry, instead of several.|
How To Increase Your Mortgage Preapproval Amount
Clean Up Your Credit
If you can improve your credit score, lenders will often up your preapproval amount. Also, a better credit score could also unlock a lower interest rate!
Stretch Out Your Loan Term
If you commit to a longer loan term, it’ll lower your monthly mortgage payments, since you’re stretching your total mortgage out over more months. This can often coax your lender into increasing your preapproval amount.
Reduce Your Debt
Lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) when they determine your preapproval amount. The more money you have to put towards debt payments each month, the less you can use on your mortgage. Paying off debts can improve your DTI, free up cash, and increase your preapproval amount.
Increase Your Down Payment
If you make a down payment of 20% or more, you won’t have to carry private mortgage insurance, which will significantly lower your monthly mortgage payments. If you can get to a lower mortgage payment, your overall preapproval amount will go up.
Make More Money
Easier said than done, but if you forgot to include any income sources when you applied for preapproval, adding them in when you reapply could boost your preapproval amount. If you’re due a big raise at work, you might ask for it before you reapply — going to a higher income bracket will definitely help your preapproval.
Work With Your Real Estate Agent
A good real estate agent will be familiar with mortgage lenders and will know which lenders and mortgage types would be a good fit for you, which can help you navigate the preapproval process confidently. They can also help you understand your term loans and a lot of the other nitty-gritty details of preapproval.
Frequently Asked Questions About Preapproval Expiration
Does mortgage preapproval expire?
Yes. A mortgage preapproval typically expires within 60–90 days, but it’s easy to apply again once you make sure your information and paperwork are updated. Read about mortgage preapproval timelines.
What happens if preapproval expires?
If your preapproval expires, you can just update your information and reach out to your lender to apply again. Learn more about mortgage preapprovals.
How many times can I prequalify for a mortgage?
You can prequalify for a mortgage as many times as you need to. Because finding and buying a house can take a while, it’s common to have to get a preapproval multiple times during the process. But it might be worth checking with the lender to see if they need to run a hard credit check every time you renew your preapproval, because that can slightly lower your credit score. Learn more about mortgage preapproval timelines.
Can I get pre-approved with 2 different banks?
You can get preapproved with as many different banks as you want at the same time. In fact, shopping around is a good idea! But do keep in mind that preapproval requires a hard credit check, so if you’re applying for multiple, do it within the same 45-day period so it only counts as one credit check. Learn more about mortgage preapprovals.
Is preapproved better than prequalified?
Yes, preapproved is better than prequalified. To preapprove you for a mortgage, the lender has to do a deep dive into your financial history with a hard credit check. Prequalification only requires a soft credit check, which isn’t nearly as accurate or helpful for sellers (though definitely still better than nothing). Learn more about mortgage preapprovals.