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What Is Pre Approval? Here’s A Simple Plain English Answer

Everything you need to know about pre-approvals

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Are you thinking about buying a home? If so, you may have heard about the importance of getting a pre-approval. But what exactly does pre-approval mean, and why is it so important to the home-buying process? 

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of pre-approval and answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned pro, this article is for you. 

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

What is Pre Approval?

A pre-approval is an indication from a lender that they are willing to approve your loan when you find the right property. It is also known as conditional approval, indicative approval, approval in principle or home seeker, depending on the bank you use.

Basically, a pre-approval means the bank will lend you X amount of money, provided you find a suitable property and your income and circumstances don’t change.

Having a pre-approval allows you to make stronger offers on property with shorter finance terms, meaning you can get a better deal and buy the home of your dreams sooner.

In some cases, a pre-approval is not assessed by the bank or lender’s credit department, and, in all cases, a pre-approval is not assessed by the Lenders Mortgage Insurer (LMI).

Always remember that a pre-approval tells you that a bank or lender is highly likely to approve your loan when you apply, but it’s never a 100% guarantee…

Why is a Pre Approval important?

A pre-approval is an important part of the home-buying process. Here are some of the reasons why it is important.:

  • You will be able to know how much the bank is going to lend you. No more guessing your borrowing capacity, as the bank will just tell you how much they are willing to lend you.
borrowing capacity with guarantor loan
  • Having a pre-approval means you will be able to calculate the actual amount of deposit you are going to need. You will know if you need to add a little more to what you have already saved or if you are good to go with the deposit you already have.
  • Once you know how much you can borrow, you can determine what your cash flow will look like after you’ve purchased your new home.
  • Just because a bank says they are willing to lend X amount does not mean you have to borrow all of it. A pre approval helps you know how much to budget to purchase your new home. It helps you also determine your walk-away price, which is the price you are not willing to go beyond.
  • It is even more important to have a pre-approval in a competitive property market because we often see first-home buyers missing out on their perfect homes because they weren’t organised and could not put their best offer forward.
  • Sometimes not having a pre-approval can actually cost you money. For example, if you are successful at a property auction, you have to put down a 5% deposit on the day, but then you apply for a home loan through your bank only to have it knocked back because of the type of property or your job status. There is no way to get your deposit back at this point because most states have no cooling-off period when buying at auction. So on a property worth $400,000, you could lose $20,000 by not having a pre-approval.
  • A pre approval saves you a lot of time. The evaluation for a loan is a lot quicker and less stressful than the alternative where you don’t have a pre-approval—you’re running around looking for payslips and tax returns, and you might miss out on government schemes if you are not organised. 
  • One of the advantages of having a pre-approval is negotiating power. Having a pre approval is a game changer. Since you are confident in how much you can afford, you can offer a price that is higher than the asking price and secure your property immediately. You can also negotiate a lower price but attractive finance terms of 7 days instead of the normal 14 days. A pre approval is a powerful tool in negotiating the price of a property.
Having a pre approval in place gives you confidence when negotiating.
  • A pre approval can help you identify any issues you may not be aware of. We had a client recently who was an unknowing victim of identity fraud and had a default of $15,000 from Citibank. If he had not gone through the pre approval process, the bank would have knocked back his loan. But we managed to clear the identity fraud, and he was good to go.

Having a pre approval is very important in a changing market. A couple of years ago, when the interest rates were stable, it meant the bank’s assessment and your borrowing capacity stayed the same.

Fast forward to 2024; it’s a completely different situation. What can happen is the banks might assess you today and say yep, we are happy to give you $500,000 based on the current interest rate but next month, if the interest rates go up to, the repayments increase and your borrowing capacity can also decrease.

However, if you get a fully assessed pre-approval, you’ll know that for the next 90 days with the right bank, they’ll lock in that assessment rate, and they’ll give you the confidence to know that your borrowing capacity is not going to change even if interest rates change.

CASE STUDY: Getting a pre-approval in a changing market

James is a first homebuyer who spoke to us in December 2022, saying he was considering buying a place. We went through the pre approval options with him. But he then said he didn’t want a pre approval right now because he thought the market was going to drop down, and he would wait until next year (2023) to see what happens.

We told him that if he applied for a pre approval now, we could lock in his assessment rate, and the bank would give him that piece of paper saying he is good to go for the $500,000, and he could be confident in that for the next 3 months. But he still decided to wait.

He contacted us a few months later, saying he was ready for the pre-approval. But there had been 2 rate rises, and his borrowing capacity had been reduced by $60,000!

So, getting a fully assessed pre-approval is important, especially in this changing market.

Fully assesed pre approval in changing market
In a changing market, it is important to get a fully assessed pre approval.

When is the right time to get a pre-approval?

You should get a pre-approval before you start shopping around for properties. Although pre-approvals aren’t 100% bulletproof, they can give you confidence when putting offers on properties.

Getting a pre-approval before you start checking out properties will help you narrow down your search and look for properties you can actually afford in the longer term.

 A pre-approval allows you to budget and work out your lending capacity—you get a full understanding of what your loan repayments will look like and understand the ongoing commitments without any mortgage shock once you find the right property.

Why is pre approval important
The best time to get a pre approval is before you start your search for houses.

Knowing your maximum budget means you won’t waste time chasing properties that are outside your price range or getting your heart set on a property that you absolutely love but is outside your budget.

Getting a pre approval before you start looking for properties is important because not all banks will accept all types of properties. Some banks will not accept high-density towers in the city or homes close to high-tension power lines… 

Ultimately a pre-approval will give you the confidence to start looking at properties, talking to real estate agents and negotiating, knowing you can afford that particular property you’re interested in.

What is the pre-approval loan process?

Below are the steps involved in the pre-approval process:

  • Sign an application form given by your mortgage broker.
  • Provide proof of loans, credit cards, savings, and income.
  • After completing the initial assessment, the mortgage broker will recommend several lenders and loan options. 
  • Once you have chosen a bank, the loan application and all the documents are submitted to your broker.
  • The lender assesses your application and gives you a home loan pre-approval.
Pre approval process

The pre-approval process differs from bank to bank and depends on which mortgage broker you use. Here at Hunter Galloway, we have a very thorough process to help you get a reliable pre-approval. Our process is as follows:

  • Initial free assessment. During this call, one of the brokers will quickly review your financial goals, your financial situation, and your eligibility for a home loan. We’ll ensure you’re ready to buy and help you decide the next steps for your home-buying journey. 
  • We collect your financial information. Your primary contact at this stage is the Credit Analyst. The information we collect is:
    • Your Details. We need to collect some basic details about you and your co-applicant (if applicable). This includes your contact information, residential details, employment situation, income, assets and liabilities. We do this using a simple form.
  • Your Supporting Documentation. We will ask for some supporting documentation to help us to review your file. Depending on your situation, this will include payslips, bank statements, and other documentation. We collect this using a secure, encrypted online tool. 
  • We do a credit analysis. Once we have collected your details and documentation, our expert credit analysis team gets to work. We have developed a systematic review process to assess your chances of getting your home loan approved. This process is split into three core components: 
    • Your credit file. Our analysts will comb through your credit report to ensure it is accurate. We will ensure that any debts recorded are correct and that your payment record is accurate. If there are defaults, we will review them to ensure they are genuine and reflect your actual credit situation. 
    • Employment history, job, and income. Your length of employment, job type, and income greatly impact which banks or lenders will be willing to offer you a loan.
    • Your deposit. Your deposit is the other main factor in your ability to get a loan. We will review your deposit and access to other funds (such as grants) to see whether you have enough deposit to qualify for a loan. 

We take the information gleaned from the credit review process and use a custom loan policy checker that checks over 4,890 data points across our panel of lenders to see which lender will be your best option.

  •  We send your information to the bank or lender. Once our internal credit team and your broker have reviewed your file, we will send your pre-approval application to your chosen bank or lender. We will work with them to complete your pre-approval as quickly as possible, but bear in mind that this takes time—usually 1 to 3 weeks.

Once your pre-approval is complete, we will give you a call to go through the details and give you the resources and tools you need to get out there and find your new property.

Home Loan Process Mortgage Broker Brisbane
At Hunter Galloway we go through a very thorough pre approval process so you can have confidence in your pre approval.

Questions to ask about your pre-approval

Make sure the loan application aligns with the bank policy before you submit it. You can seek the advice of a lender or a mortgage broker to ensure it adheres to the policy. In order to ensure that your pre-approval is reliable, you can ask the following questions:

  • Can I make a bid at the auction?
  • Am I required to satisfy conditions before going to the auction or making an offer?
  • What are the pre-approval conditions?
  • Has the lender’s mortgage insurer approved my application?
  • Has the credit department accepted my application?

Important reminder: lending policies and interest rates vary from time to time and are subject to change. So, when you go to an auction, make sure you are aware of the policies and current rates.

What are some common approval conditions?

what are some common pre approval conditions?
A pre-approval has conditions that need to be fulfilled before the loan can be unconditionally approved.

In most cases, a pre-approval has conditions that need to be fulfilled before the loan can be unconditionally approved. These can range from generic conditions, like subject to valuation, or specific ones, like obtaining a letter from your employer.

A few common bank terms & conditions include:

  • Validation of all details provided to ensure they are true and correct.
  • Receipt of all necessary supporting documentation. We have an application checklist that you can download and fill in. 
  • Satisfactory valuation for the proposed security property(s). Where a bank requires a valuation to be completed, we will arrange for this to be undertaken.
  • Lender’s Mortgage Insurance approval, if required.
  • No significant change in the customer’s financial position.

Once all of the conditions are satisfied, the bank can issue loan agreements(s). The loan agreements(s) and other documentation will set out requirements to be met before loan funds are made available. 

You must sign and return the loan agreements(s) within the first 90 days from the date of this letter, or they may require you to revalidate your financial position.

Read More: The complete First Home Buyers guide to buying a home.

How do you know if you can rely on your bank’s pre-approval?

Some pre-approvals are more reliable than others.

Not all banks are the same when it comes to assessing a pre-approval home loan. There are two types of pre approvals, and one of them is more reliable than the other.

  • The 1st one is what we call a coffee shop approval, and that’s where you rock up to the bank, and you say hey, I want to get a pre-approval for a 300 000 home. Can you give it to me? They put it in the system, and the system spits out a response that the bank can definitely do that based on the numbers you gave them. But no one’s actually looked at your living expenses and your bank statements. No one’s checked if you’ve got gambling, bad credit or if you’ve got a job whose income they might not accept, e.g. if you are a casual worker or contractor. This pre approval is very unreliable.
  • The 2nd one is a fully assessed pre approval. This pre approval has generally gone to a human that actually sits there and looks at your payslips, your bank statements, your financial situation and your savings to see if they are genuine. Then they will give you a pre approval of, say, $300, 000 and it’s been fully assessed. Now all they will need to see is a contract of sale on the home that you want to buy and live in. This type of pre approval is more reliable.

It’s important to remember that In most cases, a pre-approval is just an indication that the bank is ok to consider approving your loan. They may complete a credit check and not check any of your documents and wait until you lodge a full mortgage application to do this.

A full mortgage application is made when you find a property, which means the lenders will only complete the entire assessment of your loan—verifying your payslips, bank statements, income information, savings information and any liabilities you have—to be 100% sure they can lend you the money.

fully assessed pre approval
If your situation has changed since you got a pre approval, the bank may not approve your loan application.

Unfortunately, if you have gone out and got pre-approval from a bank, the lender is under no obligation to then fully approve your loan once you have found a property. They can say your situation has changed and knock you back.

Read More: Loan Declined After Pre-approval | 26 Ways to Get Unconditional Approval

What are some questions I can ask to make sure I have a real pre-approval?

Our team at Hunter Galloway always requests that the lender or the bank fully assesses our clients’ pre-approvals. If, for some reason, this is not possible, we will let you know.

To make sure you are protected, below are a few questions you should ask your banker or broker to make sure your loan application has been assessed and you have a real pre-approval:

  • Has my application gone to the credit department?
  • Have LMI approved my application?
  • What are the conditions of my approval?
  • Can I bid at an auction based on this approval?

If you are given an on-the-spot or system-generated approval, your home loan was never really approved. In this case, your loan could be declined in the future.


As you can see from the example above, the bank hasn’t actually assessed the home loan application. While the details entered into their lending system are acceptable, an actual credit assessor hasn’t reviewed the application to double-check that the numbers match—for example, that the income details entered match the payslips provided.

A formally approved loan is not subject to any further approval conditions.


Are there any specific lenders that provide unreliable approvals?

Again, you should ask your banker or broker the above questions. Still, you must be cautious of any system-generated approvals from St George Bank, Westpac Bank, Suncorp, ANZ, NAB or any other bank that gives on-the-spot pre-approvals. 

While many of these banks may complete a credit check and provide approval in principle, the credit department hasn’t assessed your application. Therefore the bank could change their decision to lend you the money at a later date.

If you aren’t sure, get in touch with our team. Call us on 1300 088 065 or get in touch online so we can review it for you.

 At Hunter Galloway, we work with lenders that will verify your income and deposit information to ensure you have a verified pre-approval.

What are some common pre-approval mistakes?

  1. Thinking your pre-approval is the same as a formal, unconditional approval.

We have been mentioning this quite a lot in this article, and this is because it is crucial to keep it in mind always. Getting a loan after a pre-approval is subject to getting your updated income information, obtaining a valuation to ensure the property is suitable and an updated credit file.

  1. Thinking that you can purchase any type of property.

Sometimes after the pre-approval, the type of property that you ultimately purchase may be deemed unacceptable. Some banks restrict lending for units, while others restrict you based on bushfires or flooding restrictions. So make sure the property you want to purchase is acceptable to the bank before getting the pre-approval. As a broad rule of thumb, make sure you double-check with your broker before buying any property that fits these criteria:

  • Smaller than 50 square meters inside
  • Land size over 2 hectares
  • Doesn’t have standard title and zoning
  • Not in a major town or city
  • Includes incentives like furniture packages or rental guarantees
  • Is run down or in disrepair and needs lots of work to fix up
types of properties for pre approval
Not all property types are acceptable to banks…
  1. Not knowing that the bank and the insurer are two separate entities.

This is a really big issue. Let’s say the bank has taken the necessary steps and issued a fully assessed pre-approval. You’ve got your golden ticket, but this may be short-lived because, whilst you meet the lender’s criteria, you may not necessarily meet their mortgage insurance. For example, if your property is close to high-tension power lines, it might be acceptable to your bank but not to your insurer.

  1. Not knowing you are stuck with the bank you got the pre-approval from.

You should only get a pre-approval from one bank at a time to avoid damaging your credit score by making lots of applications in a short period. So if another bank or lender announces a new, better rate, you must re-apply for a pre-approval (potentially damaging your credit file) or accept the increased costs of staying with your current lender.

  1. Thinking pre-approvals last indefinitely.

Most pre-approvals only last for 90 days. Some banks will allow 180 days, but either way, if you cannot find the right home within that time frame, you’ll need to re-apply for another pre-approval. That means wasted time and effort on your part, plus you’ll have to hit your credit file again in 90 days for an updated pre-approval.

What’s next when you are pre-approved?

Now it’s time to go shopping! Follow these steps:

  1. Determine how much you are willing to spend—your budget.

For example, you may be pre-approved for $500,000 but decide you want to only spend $450,000

  1. Start looking on RealEstate, Domain, and local real estate agents’ websites to find a property to buy.

When you’re looking online, be sure to select the bracket that you want to purchase in. So let’s say you’re looking at a $500,000 purchase. You can search for houses between $400,000 and $500,000. An interesting thing we found in the past is that sometimes you’ll get higher-priced properties that come up in this bracket. So, reduce your bracket a little bit further—maybe from $300,000 to $500,000, which will give you a far larger range of properties to look at. The best part of these websites is that you can set up real estate alerts, so when properties you like come up on the market, you’ll get an email notification and be the first to view them.

  1. When you find the right property, do your research and find as much information as you can online.

You can use websites like Onthehouse and RP Data. Some sites like RP Data will charge you a fee to obtain a report or even require a subscription. Luckily, here at Hunter Galloway, we’ve got access to RP Data! Feel free to contact us for any reports you need; we’re only too happy to provide them.

  1. Once you have done your research, you make an offer on the property.

At this point, it doesn’t hurt to get your conveyancer or solicitor to check over the contract before you go ahead. You want to ensure that you have standard finance clauses in the contract. Here at Hunter Galloway, we ensure that our first homeowners have the right terms to be competitive and protect them if anything goes wrong.

Next steps and getting your home loan

If you want to get a pre-approval or buy a home, speak with one of our experienced mortgage brokers to walk you through the next steps of home loans in Brisbane.

At Hunter Galloway, we help home buyers get ahead in this competitive market, and we give you the actual strategies that have helped other home buyers like you secure a property when there have been 5 other offers on the table! Enquire online or give us a call at 1300 088 065.

Unlike other mortgage brokers who are just one-person operations, we have an entire team of experts dedicated to helping make your home loan journey as simple as possible.

If you want to get started, please call us on 1300 088 065 or book a free assessment online to see how we can help.

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