I too, love this question. It's the chicken and the egg scenario. Why should I (the buyer) have to be pre-qualified and really, pre-approved (there is a difference) before going out to look at homes? The argument I hear all the time is I don't want to contact a lender until I know if I like the house.
Here's why it's so important to be pre-approved when looking at homes. Most often when looking at homes you're operating off of some basic criteria- the area you may want to live, the size of the house including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and of course the price. What typically happens after looking at a few homes is that it starts to become emotional. It becomes more of how you feel in the home as opposed to how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has. When you happen to find that house that makes you feel like "it's the one" then you want to be in a position to do something about it- make an offer.
If you wait to get pre-approved after you find a house you're now emotionally invested in (especially if you've looked at a lot of homes) you've put yourself at great risk of not being able to get that house. This is true for a number of reasons. One it that it can take some time to get pre-approved. If you have all the information the lender needs it can go pretty quickly but it can also take a few days if you don't have some information on hand that they need. Another reason is that you won't know what kind of loan you're pre-approved for until you go through the process. Many buyers are pre-approved for FHA loans which only require 3.5% down. The problem with this is that many of the homes, condos and Towhhomes are not eligible for FHA loans due to their condition or Association status. And or course there's the whole issue of what you can afford. I've heard many times from a perspective buyer about how they can afford something when if fact they really couldn't. A pre-approval letter from a solid lender will greatly reduce these issues and these are all things you wouldn't know until you go through the pre-approval process.
From a Realtor's prespective, if you're not pre-approved then you're not serious about buying a home. It's a very simple process to get pre-approved and is better for all involved if you do.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
And, think of it this way, you go to a store to buy something special. You go through several stores to find JUST the right one. You finally come upon the one that is the answer to your quest! You take it up to the register and the cashier says "How are you going to pay for this?" And, you say, "Hmmmmm, I don't know. I don't even know if I can pay for it. I'll have to go and talk to my banker to see how I'm going to pay for it. I'll come back later. Will this item still be here when I return?" Cashier shrugs and says, "Maybe, maybe not. I can't hold it for you, we don't have lay-away." When you're shopping for a house you want to be READY!!! You don't want to lose the just right house.
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Great answers from Brad and Benito. Being pre-qualified (or better, pre-approved) for a mortgage amount shows your Realtor that you are serious about buying. It is not uncommon to spend a few days or weekends looking at homes with a client prior to making an offer to purchase. None of us wants that to be wasted time because we were showing homes out of the client's price range. It is also very frustrating to the prospective Buyer to walk through their "dream home" only to find out it is not affordable for them.
The pre-approval process is normally quite painless unless you have questionable credit - so why delay?
Buying a home is not like buying a T-shirt, none ask you at the front door if you have money or not.
Some properties for sale, will even ask for the pre approval letter before approving a showing.
Let's think that you own a 1 million dollar home with tons of high electronics and exppensive toys on the garage, would you let anyone to get into the home to see if they will buy it? I won't. Like Suze Orman says, Show me the money!
Also, the property you point to does not seems to be for sale, you could always go an ask, but do not expect the homeowner to be friendly, it is their home.
I do not think that someone will accept an offer without a pre approval letter.
It is better to be ready with finacing or cash to close than no to be.