Shopping for a Home? Know The Mortgage Preapproval Process

a Victorian home in the fall at dawn

Reading time: 4.5 minutes

Buying a home has so many steps. We’ve demystified the process, provided financial tips 101, and helped get your dream home inspected. But what about the mortgage preapproval process? Since vipHome Podcast Host Caroline and her fiancé, Thomas, are shopping for a home, we welcomed Rebecca Donatelli of McDowell Homes Real Estate Services and 2020 LGAAR Realtor of the Year to the vipHome Podcast to understand the mortgage preapproval process.

Watch the latest episode of the vipHome Podcast now and read more below!

Why should you get preapproved for a mortgage

“Before we even start the home search process, we really make sure that our clients get preapproval,” says Rebecca, who has been helping clients find their dream homes for more than five years.

But what is the mortgage preapproval? It’s when a lender agrees to loan a home buyer(s) a certain amount of money, so they may purchase a house. The home pre approval process helps to ensure that buyers can actually purchase a home and determines the price range.

“What we don’t want to happen is to show buyers that price point and they’re pre-approved for a little bit less than that,” says Rebecca. “Now their expectations are too high, and it’s harder to get them to know what it is they can afford.”

a person is signing their mortgage documents
Be ready to sign on the dotted line.

Home buyers can’t submit offers without mortgage preapproval, and in the market, homes come and go quickly.

“There’s lot of multiple-offer situations,” says Rebecca, “and even if you’re not in one, sellers usually won’t consider an offer without a preapproval letter. They don’t want to take their home off the market for someone they don’t know is qualified to buy their home.”

Kick-starting the home buying pre approval process

a family standing before a home with their real estate agent
Rebecca Donatelli (in sunglasses) with new homeowners

The first thing Rebecca’s team does at McDowell Home Real Estate Services is connect potential home buyers with a lender to help them secure a mortgage loan or home loans.

“We see what finance programs are best for them and what their price range might look like, and that might differ per area that they’re searching.”

What documents do you need for preapproval?

The preapproval process can be intimidating with all the amount of personal information required. Home buyers need to give the lender a mortgage application and the following information and documents:

  • Credit report (including credit cards and credit score).
  • Pay stubs.
  • Bank statements.
  • Tax documents.
  • Other requested information.

“We try to hold their hand and let them know the importance of it,” says Rebecca. “We let them know that they’re not going to be able to buy a home unless they’re able to get preapproved.”

two women sit at a desk while one of them signs paperwork
You need preapproval to buy a home.

Be quick with preapproval

Price points fluctuate quickly in neighborhoods with high taxes, so it’s important to get preapproved quickly.

“We make sure we put them in touch with a trusted lender, someone who we’ve had a good experience with before,” says Rebecca, who explains when to get preapproved for a mortgage. “It’s really, really important if you are a buyer, that you take that first step and get preapproved before you even step foot in a house.”

Once the buyer receives the preapproval letter, the lender emails a copy to the real estate agent. If a buyer needs to sell their home, the paperwork will have the home sale contingency on it and the amount. This way, the buyers and the real estate agent have what they need for the purchase.

How long does preapproval last?

a digital calendar on a tablet, which is on a desk
Preapproval generally lasts for 90 days.

While this may sound tedious, a buyer doesn’t need to complete the preapproval stage with every home they consider.

“We will have the amount changed on the preapproval per offering, but they usually last 90 days,” says Rebecca.

If buyers don’t find a house within that timeframe, then they’ll need to get that approval again from the lender. Buyers may also need to complete the preapproval process earlier than 90 days if their second choice has a higher price tag.

“If the first house happens to not work out, and there’s a difference in price, you’ll need to make sure you can buy a home with a higher price point.”

To max or not to max out your budget

an upscale home with a brick driveway,
How much house should you afford?

Buyers should consider whether they want to buy a home at the top of their budget.

“Especially if you’re buying for the first time, there are certain things that you might not realize that come with homeownership,” says Rebecca. “We see a lot of times that a furnace or AC might’ve been a little bit older, but the homeowners never bothered to get it serviced. Now it might have some issues or might need to be replaced.”

While Rebecca and her team can put them in contact with the professionals, these repairs cost money. Even brand-new construction can have maintenance issues.

a modest, split-level home with overgrown grass in the front yard
Make sure you’re ready for maintenance and repair.

“It’s important to realize that you don’t necessarily need to spend what you have been preapproved for, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer,” says Rebecca. “Sometimes you see you’re preapproved for $300,000, but you do want to make sure that you’re prepared if something were to break or for saving purposes.”

This is where real estate agents excel, helping clients to feel comfortable with the amount of money they’re spending. They also strike a balance between finding a house that meets the needs of the buyer and one that doesn’t max out the budget.

Once you’re done house hunting –

two cell phones in front of an affluent blue home with the vipHomeLink dashboard up on the screens
Give your house a home.

It’s important to take care of your new home and perform routine home maintenance, which will lower your overall costs. “We see so many buyers who purchase a home and forget about certain things,” says Rebecca. “It’s more money out of their pocket at the end of the day.”

It’s the simple things – like forgetting maintenance on your appliances. Even if the furnace is in good-working condition or new, it still needs its filters cleaned on a regular basis and serviced annually.

With 22 million Americans finding it difficult to remember home maintenance, vipHomeLink aims to help homeowners take better care of their home. With personalized reminders, tailored improvement recommendations, and a place to put all your information – including paint colors and appliance receipts – our app gives your house a home.

Subscribe today with a monthly or annual membership.

Follow Rebecca on Instagram at If searching for a home in the Cleveland area, check out McDowell Homes Real Estate Services now. 

Latest vipPosts


Valuable Homeowner Content
Delivered to Your Mailbox