Q: I’m beginning my search for a new home. Is it really necessary to get pre-approved for a mortgage first, especially with interest rates going down?
A: Last month we explained the difference between getting pre-qualified and pre-approved for a mortgage. We often recommend that buyers get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified) before they start house-hunting, to put them in the best possible position when that perfect home comes up. But of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
Whether you get pre-approved or not, it’s very important to figure out how much you can afford to pay before you start looking. Most home buyers have a rough idea of how much they would feel comfortable paying every month on their mortgage. However, there is no quick and dirty way to translate that monthly payment into a specific maximum mortgage amount. Other factors have to be taken into consideration such as down payment amount, closing costs, mortgage default insurance, property taxes, strata fees (if applicable) and heating costs. And you might be qualified to borrow more or less than you think, depending on your income, debts and credit history.
As discussed last time, obtaining pre-approval on a mortgage can offer advantages, particularly in terms of locking in a great rate for up to 120 days. However, it isn’t always advantageous, depending on the situation.
For example, we recently had a client who had a considerable sum to put as a down payment on a new home. With the price range he was looking at, the loan to value (LTV) ratio would have been close to 50 per cent. As previously mentioned, the most important thing is what you are comfortable paying on a monthly basis, not what you qualify for. This client wanted to keep his payments only a little bit above what he had been paying in rent. He had a great job and income, so he would have been able to qualify for a lot more. He had no credit card debt, no loans or lines of credit but had an established credit history.
Therefore, in this case, we didn’t get him pre-approved, because we knew there would be no problem getting him a great mortgage when the right time came. But we did do an in-depth analysis of his financial situation so he would know what his mortgage payment would be on the price range he was looking at, and also the maximum amount he would qualify for so he would have a wider price range to work with if necessary.
In addition, as interest rates were going down, there was no need to lock in a rate from a lender. However, if we had noticed that interest rates would be moving up again during his house hunting, we would have obtaned a pre-approval. As mortgage experts, we do a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure we have the best options for our clients and provide them with the best mortgage available.
It is also important to remember that getting pre-approved doesn’t mean that your mortgage has been fully approved. The final approval is given once you have an accepted offer, your application has been submitted to the lender, and the lender has received and approved all the outstanding financing conditions outlined in a commitment letter.
Purchasing a home can be an emotional and time-consuming process as you want to make sure you find the right home for your needs. Knowing what you qualify for is critical when you start working with your real estate agent, as it shows you are a well-qualified buyer who is serious about purchasing a home. In fact, some agents won't even show properties to buyers who haven’t talked to a mortgage expert or bank.
Talk to a mortgage expert to find out how much you qualify for and get you started on the road to homeownership.