According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, there is often not a lot of difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification. Sometimes, lenders use the terms “pre-qualification” and “pre-approval” interchangeably. And different lenders might have different definitions for each. But generally, here’s how the two may differ.
Pre-qualification is often seen as the first step in the mortgage process, and pre-approval is the next step. With pre-qualification, you’ll supply an overview of your financial history to the lender, including income, assets, debts, and credit score. The lender will review this information to give you an estimate of what you would qualify for. Mortgage pre-qualification doesn’t always require documentation of your financial history; it can often be self-reported. Mortgage pre-approval is very similar, but it usually requires documentation and verification of your income, assets, and debts. And it will often require a credit check, which will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Which One Should You Get?
Since the terms “mortgage pre-approval” and “mortgage pre-qualification” are often used interchangeably, it can be hard to know which one you need. It really depends on how your lender defines the service, if you want a credit check or not, and what real estate market you are in. Be sure to ask your lender exactly how he or she defines “pre-approval” or “pre-qualification” (and if it requires a credit check). Then find out from your real estate agent which version has more credibility in your market. That way, when it comes time to make an offer, you’ll have what you need to give sellers confidence that you’ll be approved for a loan.