What’s the difference between getting Pre-Qualified, Pre-Approved, and a Loan Commitment?


It’s important to get a handle on the difference between getting pre-qualified, pre-approved, and finally, getting a loan commitment before you set out on the journey of looking for a home.

  • First off, you want to know what you can afford so you’re only looking at houses in the appropriate price range. Save yourself some time and disappointment!
  • Secondly, there are situations  where buyers  thought they were pre-approved by their bank when they were only pre-qualified; the bank didn’t do their final checks till the final hour and the deal fell through. Please read below so this doesn’t happen to you.

The Skinny on Pre-Qualified
Getting pre-qualified is the initial step in the mortgage process, and it’s generally fairly simple. You supply a bank or lender with your overall financial picture, including your debt, income and assets. After evaluating this information, a lender can give you an idea of the mortgage amount for which you qualify. Pre-qualification can be done over the phone or on the internet. Loan pre-qualification does not include an analysis of your credit rating or an in-depth look at your ability to purchase a home.
The initial pre-qualification step allows you to discuss any goals or needs you may have regarding your mortgage with your lender. At this point, a lender can explain your various mortgage options and recommend the type that might be best suited to your situation.
Because it’s a quick procedure, and based only on the information you provide to the lender, your pre-qualified amount is not a sure thing; it’s just the amount for which you might expect to be approved. For this reason, a pre-qualified buyer doesn’t carry the same weight as a pre-approved buyer who has been more thoroughly investigated.


The Skinny on Pre-Approved
Getting pre-approved is the next step, and it tends to be much more involved. You’ll complete an official mortgage application, and then supply the lender with the necessary documentation to perform an extensive check on your financial background and current credit rating. (Typically at this stage, you will not have found a house yet, so any reference to “property” on the application will be left blank). From this, the lender can tell you the specific mortgage amount for which you are approved. You’ll also have a better idea of the interest rate you will be charged on the loan and, in some cases, you might be able to lock-in a specific rate. With pre-approval, you will receive a conditional commitment in writing for an exact loan amount, allowing you to look for a home at or below that price level. Obviously, this puts you at an advantage when dealing with a potential seller, as he or she will know you’re one step closer to obtaining an actual mortgage.
The other advantage of completing both of these steps – pre-qualification and pre-approval – before you start to look for a home is that you’ll know in advance how much you can afford. This way, you don’t waste time with guessing or looking at properties that are beyond your means. Getting pre- approved for a mortgage also enables you to move quickly when you find the perfect place. When you make an offer, it won’t be contingent on obtaining financing, which can save you valuable time. In a competitive market, this lets the seller know that your offer is serious – and could prevent you from losing out to another potential buyer who already has financing arranged.
Once you have found the right house for you, you’ll fill in the appropriate details and your pre- approval will become a complete application.


Getting Committed
The final step in the process is what’s called a “ loan commitment”, which is only issued by a bank when it has approved you, the borrower, and the house in question. This means the home should be appraised at or above the sales price. The bank may also require more information if the appraiser brings up anything he or she feels should be investigated (i.e. structural problems, accessibility issues, outstanding liens or litigation in progress). Your income and credit profile will be checked once again to ensure nothing has changed since the initial approval.
A loan commitment letter is issued only when the bank is certain it will lend, so the commitment date on your purchase contract should be closer to closing than to the date of your offer.

Final word: Sometimes loan officers from a bank seek out loyal customers and promise them that they are pre-approved for a certain amount only to pull the rug from under them at the final hour.    I’ve worked with clients who were under the impression that they were good to go, yet when it came time, the employee of the bank had not done the proper checks on the buyer till the last minute and the deal almost fell through. Luckily, I was able to put them in touch with a qualified mortgage broker who helped save the deal.  The bank wants your business but make no mistake, they are working in the interest of the bank, not you.  Meanwhile, a mortgage broker looks after your interests and can provide you with guidance and access to multiple products available from different lenders. If you want to read more about the difference between working with a qualified mortgage broker vs. a lender, please read this.