Get preapproved for a loan

Checkbox with word approved

A few years ago, almost anyone could qualify for a mortgage as lenders recklessly lowered their standards during the housing boom.

Now, banks and mortgage companies are rejecting about half of all borrowers because they don't meet increasingly stringent requirements for higher credit scores, bigger incomes and fewer debts.

Asking a lender to preapprove you for a loan is the best way to find out where you stand and whether getting a mortgage is going to be a problem.

You fill out an application that asks how much you make, how much you've saved and how much you owe on everything from cars to school loans to credit cards.

The lender evaluates that info, checks your credit reports and credit scores, and replies with a letter that says you can qualify for a mortgage and how much it's willing to loan.

The process is usually free, and being preapproved boosts your credibility with real estate agents and sellers who don't want to waste their time on buyers who may not be able to get financing.

Don't settle for being "prequalified." That just means the lender is estimating how much you can borrow without reviewing your actual credit history or credit scores.

If you're in the market for a mortgage, here's where to find our step-by-step advice on how to get preapproved and our 8 smart moves to get the best mortgage.

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