Preapproval Letters Defined


The preapproval letter is a tool typically drafted by a loan originator to be used by a buyer’s real estate agent when presenting an offer on a property.   The letter may be in the form of a certificate or be an actual letter on the lender’s letterhead.   The preapproval letter is intended to assure the seller and the listing agent that the buyer has been buyer has been approved by the lender and therefore accepting an offer from this buyer, there should ideally not be any financing issues with the buyer.


When I prepare a preapproval letter, it usually contains the following (depending on the program):

  • Effective date.
  • The borrower’s names (who is approved for financing).
  • The sales price and loan amounts they are approved for.
  • The type of financing is confirmed (ex. Conventional, FHA, etc.)
  • Credit has been reviewed.
  • Employment and income has been confirmed.
  • Down payment and closing cost have been verified.
  • Any closing costs that are being requested to be paid for from the seller.
  • Any item the preapproval is subject to (such as satisfactory appraisal, title, complete purchase and sale agreement, etc.).

If these items have not been actually verified with proper documentation, then a buyer has been prequalified—not preapproved.  BIG DIFFERENCEBeing prequalified essentially means that a verbal interview has been conducted without providing all of the necessary supporting documents (pay stubs, W2s, bank statements—again, depending on the type documentation required for the specific loan “full doc” to “no doc”).  In addition, a Good Faith Estimate does not constitute a preapproval, it does detail the proposed loan scenario.


The preapproval letter does not contain private information such as a buyer’s credit score or their additional assets.   It is a sales tool for the buyer’s agent and if there are multiple offers presented on a home, having a strong preapproval letter is an advantage.   This is one reason why it is crucial for buyers to become preapproved before they begin shopping for their next home.   Many listings agents will not even consider an offer unless the buyer has been preapproved.    



The preapproval letter is generally effective for 90 days a specific amount of days, typically when most lenders consider the credit report “expired”.   Updating a preapproval letter is simply re-running the credit and possibly obtaining most recent income and asset documentation (paystubs and bank statements).    On occasion, the buyer’s agent may request a revised preapproval letter if they are presenting an offer on a home that is priced for less than what the buyer is approved for and if they are asking for closing costs.   



Real estate agents may also consider who the preapproval letter is from, and they may contact the lender to confirm the buyer is indeed prepproved and not just prequalified.   Many agents will tell you that the preapproval letter is only worth the paper it’s printed on.   This is also why it’s very important to be selective with lender you work with…it could possibly impact whether or not your offer is accepted on your next home.


If you’re considering purchasing a home located anywhere in Washington state and need a preapproval letter, I’m happy to help you!


EDITORS NOTE:  This post has been updated since credit reports are no longer “valid” for 90 days with most lenders.



  1. Veronica Peters says

    If both my husband and myself will be owners of our new home, do we absolutely need to both be pre-approved for the loan?
    And both our names on the pre-approval letter?

  2. Veronica, EXCELLENT QUESTION! Yes–you should have both of your names on the preapproval letter if you are both to be on the mortgage loan.

    You’ll want to make sure that your loan originator has ran your credit as well. The lowest mid score of the borrowers is what is used to determine qualification and the mortgage rate.

    If a spouse/partner is not on the preapproval letter, it’s assumed they will not be on the mortgage.

    With that said, I have had circumstances where I add the spouse later (they were confident they had high credit scores and we were not using their income for qualifying).

  3. Heather Whitamore says

    Hello. Could you explain what rights a seller has if a mortgage broker falsified a pre-approval letter and provided the seller’s realtor with false information indicating the buyer was approved when the person was not? I accepted a bid on my home, then placed a bid on another home and paid for inspection and appraisal. Now, the mortgage broker is saying the buyer on my current residence cannot be approved for a mortgage. Do I have any rights? I am now going to lose the home I bid on because I lost the sale of my current home. Is there an agency that I can report the mortgage broker’s activity to?

  4. Heather, check with your real estate agent to see if you have any rights to the earnest money deposit.

    Often times, a preapproval letter is only worth the paper it’s written on.

  5. Hi, I’m a first time home buyer, but I am self employed I would like to be preapproved for a mortgage loan and want to know what paper work wil be required by the bank, and my second question is how much is the closing cost?

    Thank You

  6. sonia, thanks for the excellent question. I’ll respond by writing a post for you. Closing cost may vary and some costs can be priced into the rate (rebate pricing = slighty higher rate to absorb cost).

  7. Sonia, here’s the post I mentioned in my comment: /2009/04/documentation-for-self-employed-borrowers.html

  8. Looks like I need to write an updated post–preapproval letters are typically no longer valid for 90 days since underwriting guidelines have shortened the period they will allow before a credit report expires.

  9. The best way to make sure that the letter you have will serve its purpose is to ask a local real estate agent.

    • I’m often surprised how many real estate agents don’t know the difference between a preapproval and prequalification letter. It may not be their fault as some preapproval letters are not worth the paper they are written on. Real estate agents should call the Loan Officer to make sure the buyer has actually been approved and have provided all supporting documentation.

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