Getting approved for a loan prior to your home search is a smart move that offers several advantages. It gives you a benchmark for how much you can afford, helping you narrow down your home search from the start. It also allows you to be taken more seriously in the bidding stage, which can help tremendously in your negotiations, especially when dealing with distressed properties.
Getting preapproved is simply a matter of your lender checking your financial situation and writing a letter stating that it would be willing to lend you a certain amount of money.
You'll need to assemble several documents to start the preapproval process:
• Federal tax returns for the last two years.
• W2s (or 1099 statements) for the last two years.
• Bank statements for the last two months.
• Recent pay stubs and proof of any other income.
• Proof of assets (stocks, mutual funds).
• Information about your current debts.
• Information about the source of your down payment, including gifts.
Don't open new credit card accounts or take on any new debt for at least six months (and even up to a year) before shopping for a mortgage