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Dear Kathe,

How important is it that we get preapproved before we begin our home buying process? Couldn’t we wait until we find a home and then meet with a lender?

 Preapproval is an important first step in the home buying process, for many reasons.

First, before you consider any homes, its very important to know not just what you can afford, but what that will cost you each month, and whether you are comfortable with that payment. There are many people who qualify for far more than they want to afford, and there is no sense getting your heart set on something, only to realize that the monthly payment feels much too steep to you. Additionally, you may qualify for more (or less) than you had assumed – it is a far more efficient use of your time to shop in the range you know you can afford and are most comfortable being in.

Second, sometimes the preapproval process will reveal credit issues that will prevent you from getting a mortgage, yet. No credit issues that you know of? Best to double check. With reporting errors and identity theft, you would be surprised how many people have glitches on their credit that they didn’t know about. Its best to be sure upfront – when you start the pre-approval process, the lender will check your credit and this will give you some time if there is any “clean-up” work that needs to be done.

Finally, when you make an offer on a home, the seller will expect your agent to provide a pre-approval letter. In the spring market, there are many buyers out there and another buyer could end up getting an offer in and accepted before you even have your pre-approval letter back.

Prepare yourself for success in this spring market – after you hire your buyer’s agent, get your pre-approval and you will be ready to buy your new home.