Calling a lender and getting pre-approved for your mortgage should be the first thing you do when considering buying a home. There are a number of reasons why this is important, one you may not have considered is it will put you in control of the process from the beginning. If you know exactly what you can qualify for, then you can select homes to consider in that price range. You will next find one you're in love with and know immediately that you can make offer because your are qualified for the loan. This process alone reduces a significant amount of stress for buyers. Your lender will provide to you and your agent a pre-approval letter to submit with any offer you choose you write.
In addition to helping you select the home with less stress, pre-approval is must in today's Sellers' Market. Competition among buyers is increasing. Most houses on the market in our area will receive 3-5 offers, at least. Buyer demand is up and inventory is down. That creates a seller's market. Sellers are only considering those offers will pre-approval letters attached to them. A pre-approval is a must to have your offer considered. Not only does it show you are qualified to buy the home, it shows that you are a serious buyer.
Sharing a pre-approval lender with the seller's agent can be a negotiation tool. Always attach your pre-approval letter to any offer you make. (Your agent will do this as the buyer's representative) Your lender's contact information will be on there and the agent is free to call and verify with the loan officer the information it contains. If there is another offer without a letter of pre-approval, you are already ahead.
Your lender will guide through changes in their regulations during the time from pre-approval to closing. This can help you understand the process and make informative decisions while searching for homes. Also, if for any reason you don't qualify for a home loan right now, your loan officer can give you specific steps to take to get pre-approved for a loan. Building a relationship with your lender is critical to helping you.
By not skipping the "not-so-fun" step of calling a lender first, you are putting yourself in control of the situation, staying informed, and reducing your stress level during the home buying process. You are also showing the seller of the home you love that you are a serious, committed buyer.