Carol Snider & Laura Snider Cooperman, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage | Metrowest Real Estate


If you’re a first-time homebuyer, odds are you’ve thrown the words “prequalified” and “preapproved” interchangeably. However, when it comes to home loans, there are some very important differences between the two.

For buyers hoping to purchase a home with a few missteps and misunderstandings as possible, it’s vital to understand the procedures involved in acquiring financing for a home.

Today, we’ll break down these two real estate jargon terms so that you can go into the mortgage approval process armed with the knowledge to help you succeed in securing a home loan.

Mortgage prequalification

Let’s start with the easy part--mortgage prequalification. Getting prequalified helps borrowers find out what kind and what size mortgage they can likely secure financing for. It also helps lenders establish a relationship with potential customers, which is why you will often see so many ads for mortgage prequalification around the web.

Prequalification is a relatively simple process. You’ll be asked to provide an overview of your finances, which your lender will plug into a formula and then report back to you whether or not you’re likely to get approved based on your current circumstances.

The lender will ask you for general information about your income, assets, debt, and credit. You won’t need to provide exact documents for these things at this phase in the process, since you have not yet technically applied for a mortgage.

Prequalification exists to give you a broad picture of what you can expect. You can use this information to plan for the future, or you can seek out other lenders for a second opinion. But, before you start shopping for homes, you’ll want to make sure you’re preapproved, not prequalified.

Mortgage preapproval

After you’ve prequalified, you can start thinking about preapproval. If you’re serious about buying a home in the near future, getting preapproved will simplify your buying process. It will also make sellers more likely to take you seriously, since you already have your financing partially secured.

Mortgage preapproval requires you to provide the lender with income documentation. They will also perform a credit inquiry to receive your FICO score.

Mortgage applications and credit scores

Before we talk about the rest of the preapproval process, we need to address one common issue that buyers face when applying for a mortgage. There are two types of credit inquiries that lenders can perform to view your credit history--hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

A soft inquiry won’t affect your credit score. But a hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points for a period of 1 to 2 months. So, when getting preapproved, you should expect your credit score to drop temporarily.

After preapproval

Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can safely begin looking at homes. If you decide to make an offer on a home and your offer is accepted, your preapproval will make it easier to move forward in closing on the home.

Once the lender checks off on the house you’re making an offer on, they will send you a loan commitment letter, enabling you to move forward with closing on the home.


The process of applying for a mortgage is tedious and time-consuming; it requires you to answer personal questions about your finances. To ascertain your credibility for a mortgage, lenders structured the application process in such a way that allows them to get as much information about borrowers either directly or indirectly. 

Before you decide to apply for a mortgage; it's best you familiarize yourself with some of the possible questions the lender would ask about your finances. Because it involves a considerable amount of money, you should be prepared to answer questions about disparities in your income, why you defaulted in making any accrued payments and questions about your credit history. 

Below are some of the possible questions your lender would ask relating to your finances. 

How long have you earned your present income?

Lenders want to ascertain if you have earned your present pay for over two years. If you just got promoted or got a salary raise recently, this is good. However, what most lenders are looking out for is a consistent income amount for the last year. If they are not sure of your income, they would take a look at your W-2s for previous years and your pay stub for the present year. Before you go ahead to make an offer for a house, ensure it's an amount your current income will support.

How often you get paid?

A lender wants to ascertain how much income you earn, how your pay is derived, and the steadiness of your salary or irregularity of income. If you receive a steady means of income, your annual salary would determine how much mortgage you get – if your income varies, you might be required to provide details. 

The disparities in your income

If your income keeps changing each year either positively or negatively, come prepared to explain the reason behind the fluctuation. If your revenue decreased from the previous year, there is every possibility the underwriter would select the worst period in the last two years to determine how much you get on a mortgage. However, if your income increased in the previous year, the underwriter would take the average of the last two years to determine your mortgage value. If your income rises yearly either due to promotion or a new position, get someone from your human resource department to write a letter to that effect. 

If you are new at your job

Being new at a job doesn't affect your application for getting a mortgage – as long as you are receiving either a salary or a full-time hourly rate. Some lenders even grant loans to individuals who haven't gotten their first paycheck if they have a fully executed employment contract. 

If you earn commissions 

If you are a salesperson who earns a commission, you would need to provide two full years of tax returns to determine non-reimbursed business expenses you wrote off. 

Before applying for a mortgage, ensure you take a second look at all your finances and identified anything that could act as a deterrent so that your application has the best chance of being approved.


If you’re a first time homebuyer and want to start weighing your mortgage options, you’ll have much to learn. With so much at stake, you’ll want to make sure you choose the best mortgage for you now, and one that will still suit your needs years into the future.

Sometimes, first time buyers are hesitant to ask questions they may consider too basic because they don’t want to seem inexperienced to lenders, agents, or anyone else they’ll be in contact with throughout the home buying process.

So, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked mortgage questions that first time buyers might want to ask before heading into the process of acquiring a home loan.

What is the first step to getting a mortgage?

This question may seem straightforward, however the first step can vary depending on your financial situation. For those who already have saved up for a down payment and built a solid credit score, the first step is probably contacting lenders and getting preapproved or prequalified.

However, if you aren’t sure about your credit score and haven’t saved up for a down payment (ideally, 20% of what you hope to spend on the house), then you should address those matters first.

To find a lender, you can do a simple Google search for the mortgage lenders in your area, or you can ask around to friends and family to find out their experience with their own mortgage lenders.

What does it mean to be pre-qualified and pre-approved?

If you think of the mortgage process in three steps, the first step would be getting pre-qualified. This means you’ve given the lender enough basic information for them to decide which type of mortgage you’re eligible to receive.

Pre-approval includes collecting and verifying further details. At this step, you’ll complete a mortgage application and the lender will run a credit check. Once you’re pre-approved, your file can be moved to the underwriting phase.

What are closing costs?

“Closing costs” is an umbrella term that covers all of the various fees and expenses related to buying or selling a home. As a buyer, you are responsible for paying numerous closing costs. These can include, but are not limited to, underwriting fees, title searches, title insurance,  origination fees, taxes, appraisal fees, surveys, and more.

That sounds like a lot to keep track of, however your lender will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the total closing costs when you apply for your loan. In fact, lenders are required to give you a list of these costs within three days of your loan application in the form of a “good faith estimate” of the closing costs.

What will my interest rate be?

The answer to this question is dependent upon numerous factors. The value of the home, your credit score, the amount you put down (down payment), the type of mortgage you have, and whether or not you’re paying private mortgage insurance all factor into the interest rate you’ll receive. Interest rates also will vary slightly between lenders.

You can receive a fixed-rate mortgage that does not fluctuate throughout the repayment term. However, you also typically have the option to refinance to acquire a lower interest rate, however refinancing comes with its own costs.


Obtaining a mortgage can be overwhelming, particularly for a first-time homebuyer. Lucky for you, we're here to help you streamline the process of analyzing various mortgage options and choosing one that matches or exceeds your expectations.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help first-time homebuyers secure the ideal mortgage.

1. Assess All of the Mortgage Options at Your Disposal

Both fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages are available, and homebuyers who understand the pros and cons of these mortgage options may be better equipped than others to make the right mortgage decision.

A fixed-rate mortgage ensures a homebuyer will pay the same amount each month. For example, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage enables a homebuyer to budget for monthly home payments over the course of three decades. And in many instances, a homebuyer may be able to pay off a fixed-rate mortgage early without penalty.

On the other hand, an adjustable-rate mortgage may start out with a lower monthly payment that escalates over the course of a few years. An adjustable-rate mortgage, for instance, may allow a homebuyer to acquire a home that surpasses his or her initial budget thanks to a lower initial monthly payment. However, after the first few years, the monthly mortgage payment may increase, and a homebuyer will need to plan accordingly.

Assess your mortgage options closely – you'll be glad you did. By doing so, you can boost your chances of selecting a mortgage that works well based on your current and future financial needs.

2. Evaluate Your Credit Score

Believe it or not, a first-time homebuyer's credit score may impact his or her ability to get the right mortgage. Fortunately, a first-time homebuyer can analyze his or her credit score without delay.

You can request a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Then, with your credit report in hand, you can better understand how potential lenders may view your mortgage application.

Of course, if you receive a copy of your credit report and find glaring errors, be sure to let the credit bureau know immediately. This will enable you to get any mistakes corrected and ensure these problems won't slow you down as you pursue your dream residence.

3. Consult with Potential Lenders

Although getting a mortgage may seem like an uphill climb at first, consulting with potential lenders may prove to be exceedingly valuable, especially for a first-time homebuyer.

Banks and credit unions employ friendly, knowledgeable staff who are happy to educate you about assorted mortgage options. These lenders can teach you about the ins and outs of various mortgage options at your convenience.

Lastly, if you need extra help in your search for the perfect mortgage, real estate agents may be able to offer assistance. These housing market professionals can provide honest, unbiased recommendations about lenders in your area so you can move one step closer to securing your ideal mortgage.

Ready to get a mortgage for the first time? Use these tips, and you can accelerate the process of obtaining a mortgage that suits you perfectly.


For the generation that grew up at the height of the subprime mortgage crisis, buying a home is a scary concept. Many young people in the 18-34 age range are dealing with high rent, a poor job market, unpaid internships, and student loans the size of a home loan. Yet, others are finding their footing and realizing that owning a home is advantageous in the long run. If you're thinking of delving into the world of home ownership for the first time here's a crash course in Home Buying 101.

Figure out your finances

You should be an expert at you and your significant other's personal finances if you are thinking about buying a home. The first thing to look at is your income and expenditures. Put the following information in a spreadsheet:
  • Total monthly income
  • Total monthly expenditures (bills, gas, food, etc.)
  • Total monthly savings
  • Total savings and assets
  • Credit and FICO score (request both of these online)
When crunching these numbers you should (hopefully) find that your income is higher than your expenditures and your savings should account for most of the difference. If your savings is lower than it should be, you either missed something on the expenditures list or you are spending more than you should be if you want to buy a home. Down Payments Down payments on a home, post-financial crisis, range from anywhere between 0-25 percent of the price of the home, 20 being the median. A down payment ideally shouldn't break your savings in case you have any unforeseen expenses once you buy your home. Moving is time-consuming and can be pricey, so you'll need to account for this in your finances.

Lock Down Your Financing

There are several types of mortgages that you'll need to choose from, and you'll want to learn about fixed and adjustable mortgage rates. This information should be informed by your long-term plans. Are you looking for your first home or your forever home? If you don't plan on fully paying off the home you might look for a low, adjustable rate while you earn money. But if you want to stay in your home until it's paid off, a fixed rate might be better for you.

Finding and buying your home

Once you've determined your price range, start thinking about things like location and the kind of home you can afford. If you're handy with tools and have the time, it might be in your best interest to buy a home than needs some work at a lower cost. If you'd rather put in more hours at work, go with the home that needs less work and save money that way. Depending on whether or not you're in a buyer's market or a seller's market, the ball can be in your court or the seller's. In a seller's market, which is more likely today in many parts of the country, the seller will have more leverage in negotiations, including closing dates and move-out dates. Due to high competition, you should also be prepared to miss out on some offers. But be patient, and you should find the home you're looking for.  



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