How to get prequalified for a mortgage

Snap It Up: Beat the Competition for Your Dream Home

Imagining yourself in a new home?

You’re not alone. Most of us have spent a lot more time in the same four walls than we ever imagined possible. Even our pets could use a change of scenery.

With banks offering historically low mortgage-interest rates and record numbers of interested home buyers flooding the market, house hunting can be stressful. Right now, Central Texans can pound a “for sale” sign in the front yard and receive multiple offers that same day.

Take heart. Savvy homebuyers can follow a few simple steps to leap over competition and snap up a dream property.

Pick Your Team

It takes a team of skilled professionals to make a home purchase happen. Think of it like this: You can assemble the best soccer players in the world, but without a great coaching team, their chances of winning the World Cup are pretty slim. Same thing goes with a real estate purchase. The key to beating the competition is to choose great coaches and follow their best advice.

Coach #1: Mortgage Banker

Unless you plan to completely empty your piggy bank and make a full-cash offer on a property, chances are you’ll need a loan. Deciding how much you can afford to borrow (before you even set foot in a model home) is the smartest first step you can make.

A pre-qualification, or pre-approval, letter from a bank shows you’ve jumped the first hurdle toward loan approval. It’s based on a review of your income, cash on hand, and credit rating. Believe it or not, the process can take just a few minutes once you produce a current bank statement and paystub.

Insider’s Tip: Every time a lender downloads your credit report, reporting agencies ding your history. So if you’re comparing loans from, say, four different banks, have each one pull your credit report within the same 2- or 3-day period. That way, reporting agencies will probably ding you once—not four times—because they see the “pulls” are most likely for just one purchase.

An experienced mortgage banker can also easily review your financial situation and give you a heads-up about ways to get the best deal on a loan. For instance, don’t assume you’ll need to fork over 20% down on a home loan—there are programs that require less.

Coach #2: Real Estate Agent

Once you have a pre-approval letter in hand, start the property search with a real estate agent who understands your goals. Finding the right property is just half the battle—competing with other buyers requires that you and your real estate agent quickly respond to opportunities as a team. Your pre-qualification letter signals to the agent that you’re ready to jump on any hot listing that pops up.

Insider’s Tip: Real estate agents generally show properties to pre-qualified buyers first because they have a leg up on the competition. Real estate agents know many sellers won’t even let you in the front door without seeing that you’re preapproved.

Coach #3: The Fixer

Not everyone can boast a stellar credit rating. These days, banks routinely regard a score under 640 as a mortgage disqualifier. Never fear—a reputable counselor has ways to raise that rating quickly. Rising Point Solutions, based in Austin, offers a free analysis of your credit situation and then creates a customized plan (for a fee) to raise your score.

Insider’s Tip: Read online reviews and ask questions about credit-fixing agencies—there are some bad actors out there who take your money and fail to fix anything.

Have questions? Need help getting started? Visit Sojourn Real Estate to talk to an agent and get more information.