DEFINITION of 'Pre-Approval'

An evaluation of a potential borrower by a lender that determines whether the borrower qualifies for a loan from the lender, or the maximum amount that the lender would be willing to lend. The pre-approval process involves a thorough look into the income and expenses of the borrower, including a look at the borrower's credit report and score.

BREAKING DOWN 'Pre-Approval'

The pre-approval process involves a confirmation of income and a credit check on the borrower. As long as no major income or credit changes occur between the time of pre-approval and the actual purchase of a home, the dollar amount of pre-approval can be expected to remain the same. The process may take anywhere from a few minutes (for an online lending application) to a couple of weeks. A nonrefundable fee may be charged for the process.

A pre-approved mortgage is still subject to review once a specific property has been chosen, so the dollar amount is not guaranteed. A pre-approval may be lowered or even revoked if the property in question may be difficult to resell in the real estate market due to preconditions, location and other factors.