Now that we've experienced the fallout from the subprime lending disaster, there is no longer such a thing as "easy money." Now you need perhaps ten to fifteen percent down, an excellent credit record and verifiable proof of income when you apply for financing.
One reason for all this scrutiny is that many lenders sell their loans on the secondary mortgage market, and they are using required (and automated) software to factor in all the variables in the equation that results in a thumbs up or a thumbs down. In other words, it's not quite as personal as it used to be.
Save yourself time, stress and heartbreak by seeking preapproval for financing before you even look at House One. I say "preapproval," and not "prequalification," because prequalification is only an "estimate" of the loan amount for which you might qualify once your application has been fully reviewed.
Preapproval puts you in the driver's seat with sellers, because it means that you have already basically "applied" for financing with your credit report, verified income, and proven ability to make a respectable down payment. Preapproval goes several steps beyond prequalification, and gives you the best indication of how much home you can afford.
Maximize the time spent on your home search by taking the all-important step of seeking financing first. Then make your offer with confidence!