Preapproval vs Prequalified Letter: Which Is Better?

by Lili Patch 06/10/2020

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

If you're ready to get serious about your home buying journey, one of the first steps is seeing various lenders. As you become more familiar with the process, you'll likely hear the terms preapproval and prequalified mentioned again and again. We'll look at how each letter works and what you should know before approaching a home seller. 

Prequalification Vs. Preapproval 

The key difference between a preapproval and prequalification is that the preapproval letter is much more involved. With a prequalification, the lender will look at the general state of the buyer's assets before estimating how much home they're likely to afford. Lenders are not diving into the buyer's past, which can make real estate agents wary of accepting prequalification letters. 

Preapproval 

With a preapproval letter, you're typically asked to provide the following:

  • Two year's worth of W2s
  • A month's worth of paystubs 
  • Two month's worth of bank statements 
  • Social security card 
  • Considering the amount of paperwork you need to provide (and the lender needs to process), preapproval letters can take months to generate. On the other hand, a prequalification letter can be procured in little more than 24 hours. 

    Additional Facts 

    Here are a few facts that can help you know more about what to expect:

  • Preapproval letters can cost several hundred dollars to generate. We recommend starting with your financial institution because you already have a relationship with them, and they may not charge as much. 
  • You may be able to lock down interest rates at the time of your preapproval letter. This is exceptionally helpful for those who want to know what their payments will be down to the penny. 
  • Make sure to calculate closing costs beforehand so you know exactly how much you'll owe out-of-pocket. 
  • Does It Help to Have Both?

    Not necessarily. Prequalification letters are generally recommended for homebuyers who may not know for sure if they're ready to buy. It's a general indication of how much money you'll get, which can help you decide if it's enough to get a preapproval letter. If you're in a buyer's market, you may be able to get away with a prequalification. However, it's generally the far less coveted letter that you can have. 

    A preapproval letter is definitely the best letter you can take to a seller when you're ready to make a bid on a home, but it's important to note that even these letters may fall through. For example, if a major event occurs (e.g., a job loss, etc.) between when your financial institution issued the letter and when you close on the home. Talking to a real estate agent or financial expert can make it easier to navigate it all. 

    About the Author
    Author

    Lili Patch

    Radio Personality turned Realtor; I welcome the opportunity to turn house selling and house hunting into a fun and educated experience. House buying should feel like you're shopping with a friend, and I will keep you in the loop the entire time so you will not be wondering what you just signed or what happens next. It's that seamless, and we may even have lunch or dinner. I do this because when I started my real estate journey on the east coast, buying my first condo at the age of 18, I was clueless. I wished I had someone who had made that a stress free transaction- but it wasn't, and thats how I got the Real Estate bug. Let's take a step back first though to my first "job", I studied communications and entered the broadcasting industry. Through the years I purchased some more properties, and felt there was a gap that needed to be filled in the Real Estate profession. I set the bar very high on skill set & customer service. I have Real Estate Licenses in 4 states, which means I have more education, and training than most agents. My level of knowledge, strategy and experience is what sets me apart. I know how important being an astute negotiator is, being relentless, and answering the phone when it rings. I have earned certifications as a Seller Representative Specialist (SRS), a Certified Home Marketing specialist (CHMS), and a Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA).

    Meeting with people and traveling both east coast and west coast has given me a broad appreciation of the different laws, protections, and scenario's you encounter in real estate. Having the benefit of my communication background coupled with the vast knowledge of multi-state experience has been the backbone of my success.