Statistics show that most first time buyers begin their search for their inaugural piece of real estate, 11 months prior to actually making a purchase. While scouring the internet for educational tidbits, most first-timers come out of the research process with one transparent piece of advice: Speak to a mortgage broker and get yourself a pre-approval!

First and foremost, getting yourself pre-approved by a mortgage broker is a great starting point for first time home buyers. After analyzing your current situation and future goals with you, a mortgage broker will be able to inform you how much “home” you can afford, based on your current debt load and annual income. This is a great tool to have in your back pocket before meeting with a realtor, so that you know the price range of houses you should be looking at, rather than falling in love with places that you aren’t able to afford.

A pre-approval will also “hold” an interest rate for you for up to 120 days. Should interest rates rise during this time, you are hedged against any increases with your pre-approval. However, should rates drop during this time, you will be guaranteed the lower rate.

The beauty of all this is that there is no cost, whatsoever, to obtaining a pre-approval from a mortgage broker! There is also no obligation to follow through with the pre-approval! You may begin shopping for homes and, for whatever reason, decide that now is not the right time to enter the real estate market. Your pre-approval will simply expire after 120 days – no harm, no foul.

So now I ask all you internet real estate shoppers out there… do you have a pre-approval in your back pocket? If no, why not?!