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How to get preapproved for an FHA loan

What to expect in the early stages of applying for this government-backed loan.


A credit score above 580 and at least two years of steady employment could qualify you for a 3.5% down payment with an FHA loan. But before you schedule the moving truck, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of getting preapproved.

How to get preapproved for an FHA loan

Before you apply for preapproval, make sure you meet the requirements of an FHA loan by providing details about your credit and work history.

  1. Check your credit score. Get your credit score above 500 — or to 580 to qualify for 3.5% down. Lenders also want your debt-to-income ratio to be 50% or lower.
  2. Find a lender. Compare banks, credit unions and online lenders by considering requirements for approval, interest rates and fees.
  3. Gather paperwork. Once you decide on a lender, gather paperwork like recent bank statements, pay stubs, two years of W-2s and an employment verification letter.

What questions do I need to answer?

As part of the preapproval process, a potential lender will need information about your:

  • Credit score. To qualify for a 3.5% down payment, your credit score needs to be at least 580. A score between 500 and 579 will require a 10% down payment.
  • Employment History. Be ready to verify your employment with an employment verification letter, pay stubs and current W-2 forms.
  • Income. Be ready to verify your income through pay stubs, bank statements or tax returns.
  • Debt-to-income ratio. The maximum debt-to-income ratio for an FHA loan is 50%. However, requirements vary by lender and can be as low as 31%.

The FHA loan preapproval timeline

The time it takes to be preapproved depends on the lender and your application. Online mortgage lenders are typically quicker, often taking a matter of minutes — or a couple of business days through an automated system. If your application is incomplete or if the lender needs more information for verification, it could take longer.

Preapproval letters have an expiration date and are generally valid from 60 to 90 days. To find specific information about the timeline, consult your mortgage company.

What happens if I’m rejected?

If you’re rejected during the FHA loan preapproval process, make sure you met all the criteria or apply to another lender. If your credit score is too low or your debt-to-income ratio is too high, analyze your credit and try giving it a boost. Some lenders will also reject your preapproval if you don’t have the money you need for a down payment.

Bottom line

Getting preapproved for an FHA loan gets you one step closer to purchasing a home. Once you know you qualify for this government-backed loan and gather the paperwork you need, compare lenders that offer FHA loans to get the best rate.

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