Kelly, there is a huge difference between "pre-prequalification" and "pre-approval".... To be very specific, you CAN get pre-qualified IF you already know all of your information accurately and currently as you stated above. A lender can take all of the information you give him or her and tell you approximately what/how much you are qualified for. They can give you a ballpark and tell you how much you qualify for, and when you will qualify for based on your credit improvement, so you can start getting an idea of things online perhaps.
However, to be "pre-approved" that means they need to pull your credit and verify all of that information for themselves, like assets, debt, income, job history, etc. You should actually get pre-approved BEFORE you start "actively" looking for houses on your own, or more smartly with a Realtor. As one agent mentioned below, most agents do not start driving clients around until they know if they're qualified and more importantly what they're qualified for (ie: price range/type of home/condo/etc.) Also, a seller will not accept an offer typically without a pre-approval letter from a lender and verification of that information. To do that, a lender must pull your credit and look at your credit scores. as other agents have mentioned, your scores can be pulled numerous times in the same 14 to 30 day period for the same purpose (ie: a mortgage) and not affect your score. Basically, once you start to get closer to the time to purchase, you will need to have a lender actually pull your credit and review all of your documentation. You should probably do that about 3â€“6 months away from the date of your anticipated purchase.
If you would like to contact me directly, I can get more details and have you speak with a good lender to give you an idea of what you qualify for at this point. Once you get closer to needing to purchase, that same lender can pre approve you and I would be happy to assist you from start to finish throughout the process. Once you have a pre-approval amount and can give me some criteria, I set you up with your own personalized, complementary website that gives you direct access to the Austin MLS(The only true source out there that is just about 100% accurate). I am a Residential Specialist here in the greater Austin area, am one of the top agents working for the #1 Real Estate company in Austin, Keller Williams Realty, and I represent buyers like you at no cost, and use only excellent lenders I've worked with many, many times before, who don't charge anything for the preapproval or prequalification process, btw.
Anyway, I hope that answers your question and please let me know if I may be of further assistance. Thanks, Joe
Joe Jarusinsky, Realtor/Master Instructor, Keller Williams Realty, Austin's #1 Real Estate Company, Call 512-261-4415