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Why Pre-Approval Makes You a Stronger Homebuyer in the Tri-Cities Housing Market

Every real estate professional in the Tri-Cities will tell you it’s a seller’s market right now. A seller’s market means it’s a lucrative time to sell your home, while an extremely competitive time to buy a home. We’ll explain how the Tri-Cities became a seller’s market.

Between 2011 and 2015, we had a healthy average of 1,223 homes on the market in the Tri-Cities, Washington. Since 2015, we’ve had an average of 588 homes on the market. That’s less than half the inventory compared to the previous five years! Low supply and high demand has also increased the average price from a low near $200,000 in 2011 to the current high of $356,800. Despite the challenges we’ve seen throughout 2020, the Tri-Cities market has continued to gain momentum with an average of only 431 homes available for sale with an average of 24 days on the market. 

What does this mean? It means if a decently priced home hits the market, it sells within days. If the home is under $300,000, it will likely sell the very day it hits the market with multiple offers for the seller to choose from.

How does Pre-Approval Help You Buy a Home in the Tri-Cities?

Most of us have watched those TV shows depicting the homebuying process. A Realtor shows a couple a few homes, they pick the dreamiest one with the most character and live happily ever after. But the truth is, the process needs to start before you begin looking at those dream homes. 

When working with one of our Realtors at Powell Real Estate Group to find your dream home, one of the first questions we’ll ask is if you’ve met with a lender and received a pre-approval letter. Here’s two reasons why:

  1. It will tell you what price range you should be looking in. There’s nothing quite as devastating as viewing a home, falling in love with it, and then discovering it’s completely out of your price range. A pre-approval letter will let you know how much house you can afford. You’ll save time by only looking at houses that fit your budget.
  2. Sellers in the Tri-Cities are probably going to have several offers sitting on the table in front of them. They are going to look for the strongest, safest offer that will give them the best chance to sell their house in a timely manner. If your offer isn’t 100% cash, they’re going to want to know where your money is coming from. A pre-approval letter from your lender, while not a sure guarantee, is a good indicator that you have the buying power necessary to purchase their home.

Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com says, for “a buyer in a competitive market, it’s typically essential to have pre-approval done in order to submit an offer, so getting it done before you even look at homes is a smart move that will enable a buyer to move fast to put an offer in on the right home.”

Time is of the essence when buying a home in the Tri-Cities, Washington. If you find the home you want before you have pre-approval, chances are that home won’t be on the market anymore once you’re through the pre-approval process, which can take a few business days depending on how busy your lender is.

But check this out: “according to a realtor.com survey conducted in June of over 2,000 active home shoppers who plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months, only 52% obtained a pre-approval letter before beginning their home search, which means nearly half of home buyers are missing this crucial piece of paperwork.”

If you’ve got your pre-approval letter, you’re one step ahead of half the people out there. Which means your chances of getting that dream home in the Tri-Cities is even higher. 

Pre-qualification vs. pre-approval

Let’s make sure everyone knows the difference between pre-qualification vs. pre-approval. They are not the same thing! Pre-approvals hold much more weight. A pre-qualification is a quick process in which a lender will take your income and debt to give you a basic idea of what size loan you can qualify for. A pre-approval is a much more in depth process that includes checking your credit to give you a solid price range. It will also let you know what interest rate you qualify for, which is a big factor in determining your monthly payment and what will fit with your budget.

According to nerdwallet.com, “A mortgage preapproval is more than an estimate, it’s an offer by a lender to loan you a certain amount under specific terms.” 

What you’ll need for your pre-approval 

  1. Find the right lender. Having a trustworthy and fast-working lender is essential to the homebuying process to allow you to close on time. We’re happy to recommend Derek Robinson at Community First Bank in Kennewick as an excellent lender who works quickly and efficiently. Some people prefer to use the institution they already have checking and savings accounts with. Regardless, interview a few lenders and find the best fit for you.
  2. Identification and financial information – Driver’s license, social security card (or number), your current address, and employment details for both you and anyone who is co-borrowing. The lender will want the information for all of your bank accounts, investment portfolios, rental property income, and proof of all forms of income. If you will be receiving a gift of money to cover all or part of the down payment, you will need a letter from the giver stating that it is a gift and the money will not need to be repaid. You’ll also likely need to provide tax returns and W2’s for the past two years.
  3. Credit Score – Your lender will be checking your credit score (with your social security number and signature giving permission). Make sure to view the report so you can dispute any issues or discrepancies. According to nerdwallet.com, a credit score of at least 620 is recommended, and a higher credit score will qualify you for better rates. Generally a credit score of 740 or above will enable most borrowers to qualify for the best mortgage rates.”
  4. Debt-to-income ratio – One of the key items a lender will look at is your debt to income ratio. What’s your total income, including rental properties, child support, alimony, and typical employment? How much debt do you have? Student loans, cars, other homes, credit cards? Pay off as much debt as you possibly can before applying for pre-approval.

Other tips during the home buying process

As mentioned earlier, mortgage pre-approval is not a guarantee for a home loan. There’s still the process of appraisal to make sure the price you’ve contracted to pay the seller fits the home. If the appraisal comes back low, they won’t loan you the full amount for the home. It’s also important to note that once your pre-approval is done, it’s vital not to make any large purchases or take out any loans, such as with a car. This will change your debt to income ratio and could disqualify you from obtaining a mortgage. You’ll also want to keep paper trails of any deposits made to your accounts. The lender will want to know where any money is coming from that will be going towards your down payment. 

Just as a professional Realtor will keep you posted throughout the home buying process of any and all details, a professional lender will do the same. Make sure you find a lender that delivers the communication you need throughout the home loan process.

Ready to buy a home in the Tri-Cities, Washington?

Whether you’re relocating, upgrading, or downsizing, we have Realtors at Powell Real Estate Group who are ready to guide you through the home buying process. We have experience in this fast paced Tri-Cities home market and will use our expertise to get you in your dream home. Call us today at (509) 563-2224.

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