Pre-Qualify vs Pre-Approve
When a lender prequalifies you they are giving you an estimate of what you can afford based on the information you tell them. The prequalification is only as good as the information you tell them. A prequalification should give you a basic idea of what you will likely qualify for and which loan programs may work for you. A pre-approval is much stronger than a prequalification. When you obtain a pre-approval from a lender they are stating they verified all your information, they didn’t just go off what you told them. They will need documentation of all your assets, incomes and will need to pull a credit report. When you make an offer on a home, most sellers will request a pre-approval letter. It is even better if you can provide the pre-approval letter when you submit your offer.
It's important to know that a pre-approval is not a guarantee. Lenders will still need to review the appraisal, re-check your credit, and they will check that no negative changes are made to your financial situation after you apply. Also, your file must be sent to underwriting, and it must meet all conditions the underwriter sets. When you receive a pre-approval letter only the loan officer and possibly their processor have reviewed your file. The other thing to know is that if it has been awhile since you were pre-approved it's a good idea to check in with your lender to give them updated documents and see if anything has changed that may affect your qualification. In the lending world, things can change frequently, what may have been acceptable 3 months ago may not be acceptable now or vice versa.
If you need a lender that can prequalify and/or pre-approve you let me know and I can provide some names and contact information for some local lenders in The Columbia River Gorge.