How long does it take to get pre-approved for a mortgage? [VIDEO]

July 15, 2019 - 4 min read

Your mortgage: How long does it take to get pre-approved?

Everyone knows they are supposed to get pre-approved for a home loan before they go house shopping. It’s one of those annoying pieces of advice you can’t escape, like “wear sunscreen.”

Groan. You have to do it. But how long will it take to get pre-approved for your home loan so you can get to the fun part?

Fortunately, the approval process isn’t as tedious as most new home buyers think it’s going to be.

Online application and computerized analysis have made everything faster and easier.

Ready to get approved? Start now.

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In this article:

You may think it will take a long time to get pre-approved. The process is actually easier than you think:

  1. Decide how much you’re comfortable paying each month for your mortgage
  2. Try a mortgage calculator to get a range of payments and loan amounts
  3. Pull up your bank balances, gather your last pay stub, and call a lender, which runs your basic data through a computerized system. This system will then issue a decision on whether you are approved or not. This takes as little as 15 minutes

Pre-approve yourself first

Probably not as long as you think. This first step takes about eight seconds.

When you begin considering a home purchase, you go through a few steps. And one of those first steps is deciding how much you are comfortable forking out each month when you pay your mortgage.

You might not realize this, but you have already begun the process of pre-approving your mortgage.

Think about it. If you’re paying $1,500 a month in rent now, and writing a $2,000 check makes you queasy, you’re already setting some limits. Without even asking a lender.


Pre-qualification with a calculator

Another tool people use to estimate what they can afford to spend for a home is a mortgage calculator. Takes about a minute.

They just input their monthly income and debt payments, and voila! They get a range of payments and/or loan amounts that are probably affordable for them.

This means that statistically, people with debt and income positions similar to theirs are unlikely to default on their home loans. But that’s all it means. Don’t get too excited.

Many people take these pre-qualification letters to their agents or show them to home sellers to prove they are ready to buy homes and serious about their offers.

The only problem is that none of this information has been verified in writing or examined by an underwriter. Some pre-qualification letters are issued without anyone even pulling a credit report. These aren’t worth much since a low credit score negates high income or any other strong factor in an applicant’s profile.

Sellers and real estate agents know this. And that’s why they disregard any pre-approval that doesn’t factor in credit.

Verify your home buying eligibility

Automated underwriting systems

The good news is that you can actually get a serious document that has some clout and some meaning.

Take five minutes to pull up your bank balances and snag your last pay stub. Then call a lender and ask them to fire up some software.

Welcome to the world of fintech, or financial technology. In the mortgage industry, it’s called an automated underwriting system, or AUS.

Many lenders have their own proprietary ones, but the most widely-used are Fannie Mae’s Desktop Underwriter (DU), and Freddie Mac’s Loan Prospector (LP).

You provide a loan officer or processor your income information, bank balances, and permission to check your credit. The AUS runs everything through some complex calculations and makes a decision based on information provided by you.

The system issues a decision. Usually, something like “Approve,” “Refer,” or “Refer With Caution.” “Approve” means as long as your documents match your information, you’re probably good to go.

Finishing it off

“Refer” means something might need to change for you to get approved. You might not be eligible for the program, or they need more information. “Refer With Caution” means that unless something like identity theft is a factor, you are probably not approved.

Your lender’s decision comes with a list of things needed to finalize your pre-approval. For instance, you may be approved for a $250,000 home purchase with a $200,000 loan.

You get a letter (for example) saying that to complete your loan, you must supply bank statements showing that you have at least $80,000, a pay stub proving that you earn $78,500 per year, and a statement from your auto lender proving that the loan was paid off last month.

These are normal things you probably have in a file or can get with one phone call. Maybe an hour, tops. 

Mortgage pre-approval is fast and easy

Having a pre-approval letter in hand is a powerful thing when you go house hunting. Almost like a briefcase full of cash (and probably safer to carry around). So next time you’re watching Netflix, don’t waste that time. Grab the stuff you need as the next episode loads, and then make a call.

You could be pre-approved by the time you reach the next season of Stranger Things.

What are today’s mortgage rates?

Current mortgage rates change all the time, like everything else in financial markets. While you’re talking to lenders about getting pre-approved for your mortgage, ask them for rate quotes too. You will soon be saving time and money like a pro.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Gina Freeman
Authored By: Gina Freeman
The Mortgage Reports contributor
With more than 10 years in the mortgage industry, and another 10 years writing about it, Gina Freeman brings a wealth of knowledge to The Mortgage Reports as its Associate Editor. Gina works with a team of world-class real estate and finance writers to bring timely and helpful news and advice to the audience. Her specialty is helping consumers understand complex and intimidating topics.