8 smart moves to score the best possible mortgage

Preapproval shows where you stand with lenders

Banks and mortgage companies reject about half of all borrowers because they don't meet stricter demands for better credit scores, higher incomes and fewer debts.

Asking to be preapproved for a mortgage is a way to find out where you stand.

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 information, 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.

Here's our step-by-step advice on how to get preapproved.