There are very different requirements for a pre-qualification letter versus a pre-approval letter from a mortgage and time frame it takes to get each one. Generally, you will get a pre-qualification letter before you start your home search so you know the upper price of a house you can buy. You will start the pre-approval process no later than when you have a contract on a house. It would be beneficial to start the pre-approval process after you get the pre-qualification letter.
The pre-qualification letter is the easiest one to obtain and can be done over the phone. This letter will state the maximum price of a home you qualify to buy. You will supply your mortgage consultant your income, all debts including home, car, credit card and student loans along with your social security number. Generally, the mortgage consultant can qualify you in a couple of hours or less. However, a pre-qualification letter is not a guarantee that the mortgage company will issue you a loan for that amount.
The pre-approval process and letter require a significant number of documents from you in order for the mortgage company to confirm they will lend you the mortgage. This process can take up to three weeks and it is very important that you supply the required documents as soon as possible. Some of the documents you will be required to provide include the following; bank statements, 401k statement, federal income tax statements for 3 years, w2’s for 3 years, current pay stub from your employer and a letter from your employer stating your currently employed.