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Preapproval
Lenders look for one key attribute in a borrower: the ability to repay the loan. Because a mortgage is such a large loan, lenders go to great lengths to determine if you are credit-worthy. Be prepared to bare much of what you have previously deemed private: your job, your credit, your assets and your liabilities.

Most lenders prefer to see employment at the same company for at least two years before applying for a mortgage. Many lenders also want to see a clean credit report and low outstanding balances to creditors. A new breed of lender is emerging, however. Companies such as Ameriquest offer loans that are easier to qualify for, even if you have less than perfect credit or find yourself in a new job. You should be able to come up with a down payment without cleaning out your savings. After all, you still need to cover closing costs, monthly bills, moving costs, and repairs.

You can determine a lender's requirements more closely by getting prequalified or preapproved.
  • Prequalification
    This is the lender's very informal opinion of how much money you can afford to borrow. There is no documentation required. The lender looks at your income, assets and liabilities and decides whether you qualify for a mortgage, and if so, how much. This process can be done quickly online through Ameriquest.com. Depending on what your needs are, prequalification may not be enough

  • Preapproval
    A preapproval is excellent preparation for making an offer on a home. The lender commits to giving you a mortgage of a specific amount when you find a home. However, there is no commitment on your part to take the loan from this lender. Both processes force you to take stock of your financial situation. If you live in a hot real estate market like Silicon Valley or Westchester County, New York, real estate brokers may want to see a preapproval before they show you properties.
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