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The Question of Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval

Amy and Brad immediately fell in love with the two-story with a brick patio and big backyard. They quickly made an offer and began looking for lenders. Unfortunately, they soon discovered that they couldn’t qualify for the home. They tried to find something else in their price range, but other houses paled in comparison. If only they had shopped for loans before looking at houses…

 

One surefire way to reduce stress during the process of home buying is to seek pre-approval, actually applying for a loan before finding a house. The loan agent assembles a credit package that includes a loan application, credit report, income and asset information, and supporting documentation. These documents are then submitted to prospective lenders who underwrite the file, issuing credit approval or denial.

Buyers who are pre-approved are taken more seriously than their pre-qualified counterparts. Pre-qualification is not a loan commitment from a lending institution; it is only a loan agent’s opinion that you will be able to obtain financing. Verifications are not usually made so formal approval is not issued. These days, virtually anyone can achieve pre-qual status.

Pre-approval, on the other hand, signifies that the lender has taken the application through a rigorous procedure. So buyers with pre-approval status can basically write their own ticket.

 

Benefits of pre-approval:

1. If you make an offer on a home and then apply for a loan, you are at the lender’s mercy. He sets the interest rate and points, aware that you do not have time to shop around.

2. Understanding the breadth of your financial reach will save the time spent looking at houses you can’t afford.

3. Shopping for a loan allows you to settle on a house payment that fits your lifestyle. If you rely on your lender to tell you what you can afford, you may end up with a high mortgage payment. Most people can qualify for more than they would feel comfortable paying.

4. Having a pre-approval letter from a lender gives you an edge in a situation where multiple offers have been made on a house.

5. Pre-approved buyers can generally close escrow more quickly. Once you submit your credit package, most of the legwork has already been done.

 

Remember, neither pre-approval nor pre-qualification are absolute loan commitments. Lenders must still assess property appraisals, verify information, and, in many cases, verify credit before funding the loan.


It may seem that homebuyers and sellers don't agree on much, but they share one important concern: that the transaction is successful. This comradery is never more evident than during the appraisal process. It's only natural, since the results of the appraisal can send the deal spiraling out of control.

Appraisers take into account many factors when determining the worth of a home. While some of these, such as location, can't be helped, there are things a homeowner can do to ensure that the home is appraised for maximum value.


1. Information is King
Appraisers don't spend a lot of time in the home. In fact, Brian Coester, chief executive of appraisal firm CoesterVMS, tells CNBC that the interior inspection typically takes 30 minutes or less.

"After inspecting thousands of homes, it does become quite easy to quickly assess the amenities in a home," reiterates Ryan Lundquist on Sacramento Appraisal Blog. That isn't much time to make a good first impression, so line up those ducks in advance of the appraiser's visit. The first one should be a packet of information that you can hand the appraiser as he or she speeds out the door after the inspection. This packet should contain not only the basics about your home but anything that will help back up the buyer's offer.

Include a fact sheet about the home with the address, the year the home was built, the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the size of the lot. Also include a listing of recent sales in the area, especially if you know of any for-sale-by-owner homes that have sold or homes that sold for less than they should have for any reason. For example, a home may have been sold to a relative, or the owners may have sold quickly to take a job out of town. Yes, the appraiser has access to recent home sales, but there's always a chance he or she may miss something.

Create a list of any improvements you've made to the home. List them by date and include contact information for the contractor who did the work.


2. If It's Broken, Fix It
The appraiser will assign the home with what is known in the business as an "effective age."

It's largely based on the condition of the home and how well it has been maintained. This age may be older or younger than its actual age. "Say you have a cracked window, thread-bare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, vinyl torn in the laundry room, and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth, these items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable, however your effective age will be higher resulting in comparables being utilized which will have the same effective age and resulting lower value," Doreen Zimmerman, an appraiser in Paradise, California, tells the Wall Street Journal.

Fix anything that will age the home in the eyes of the appraiser.


3. Give the Home a Quick Cleaning
Most appraisers will tell you that it doesn't matter if your home is clean or dirty - it has no bearing on its value. We, on the other hand, know how illusions can sell, and if a clean house gives the illusion that the home has been well-maintained, what harm can it do to clean it before the appraiser's arrival? I don't know about you, but before I trade in a car at the dealership, I give it a good cleaning.

"Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls - those do affect value and are part of the property's overall condition rating," Dean Zibas, of Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, California, tells the Wall Street Journal.

While some things impact a home's value more than others, the bottom line is that the process can vary by appraiser. Anything you can do in the three areas listed above has the potential to streamline the appraisal process and increase the value of your home. Plus, going through these steps prior to listing your home will only help increase the number of potential buyers. And ultimately, selling your home is what it's all about.