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Don't Underestimate the Mortgage Pre-approval?

If you're in the market for a new Atlanta home, the very first thing you need to do is obtain mortgage preapproval. Sure, it's not as fun as touring through peoples' homes, but make no mistake: It's a crucial step. Generally, pre-approvals are treated by the lender as an opinion on your ability to borrow money, but it may take finding the specific property to have a firm commitment from the lender.

Keep in mind that these things have an expiration date — generally in the 90-day range — so you may have to go through the process again if the deal isn't sealed in a timely manner. What it lacks in sex appeal, the pre-approval letter makes up for in practicality.

First and foremost, pre-approval gives a buyer confidence. Knowing exactly what you can afford saves you from potentially embarrassing yourself when it comes time for number-crunching. Hey, you may even find out you can pull off more of a payment than you'd previously thought. Home-buying is stressful enough; pre-approval is a relatively easy way to remove some of that mental burden.

Pre-approval puts you in the good graces of the seller. They're much more likely to treat you seriously when they know your enthusiasm is backed up with the green stuff. Especially if it comes down to a bidding war, pre-approval could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.

It's all about the leverage, baby.

Having pre-approval saves you time, which is something the seller will probably appreciate as well. Getting the pieces together for financing after your offer has been approved doesn't happen overnight; in fact, in can take a while. Pre-approval takes this waiting game out of the equation. You're going to have to get it done at some point, so why not knock it out in the beginning? Inspection and closing may commence at full speed!

Lastly, being preapproved ends up making the home search easier for you, dear buyer. When the field is narrowed down to what you can realistically afford, there's more time to focus on the details. What's really important to you? Unless we're talking about a seriously small field to choose from, don't be afraid to get down to the nitty-gritty. Just don't forget to reprocess your pre-approval if it ends up expiring.

— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Jonathan Carnright