House shopping is great fun. It is easy to get carried away with fantasies of the perfect home in the perfect location. Perhaps you’ve even found it, driven by, and counted the number of windows and planned your furniture arrangement.

Now, a dash of cold reality. Did you look at the price? Do you know if you can get financing for this perfect home you’ve already fallen in love with?

Save yourself the heartache and get prequalified for your home loan financing before you begin your house hunt. It’s free and simple, and accomplishes several things for you as a buyer.

First, how do you go about it? Prequalification can be handled by your property finance consultant. You’ll need to give him your ID number and consent to a credit check. All information is treated confidentially. With confirmation of a clear credit record, you will receive a prequalification certificate that is valid for three months. This certificate will give you a clear idea of your budget range as you begin your search as it is an indication of the loan amount you should qualify for based on your salary and earnings.

Keep in mind that certified prequalification is not an absolute guarantee of financing. Rather it provides financing options a potential buyer has as long as he or she meets the bank’s requirements. Most prequalified clients are granted a bond once they make their formal application, providing peace of mind for both buyer and seller.

In addition to outlining your house hunting budget, the advantages of prequalification for buyers are numerous. First, it serves as an introduction to the process of applying for a home loan, which is particularly useful for first-time homebuyers. With this less formal process, they get a clear indication of what the bank will look for in the final application, perhaps making them more comfortable as that process begins. Once they buyers have found the house they wish to purchase, the formal application and origination process is quicker for prequalified clients because most of the information is already on file.

To a seller, a prequalification certificate indicates a serious buyer and assures them of the buyer’s ability to secure funding. The seller also knows a prequalified buyer will be likely to receive financing quickly, and the buyer will qualify for the amount being offered.

If a seller accepts an offer to buy from a prequalified buyer, he avoids the problems that can arise when dealing with a buyer who must secure financing once he has been locked into the sale. If the buyer’s loan is not approved, the seller has likely missed out on the serious buyers, and must now start again from square one.

Prequalification is a simple step you can take as a buyer that will give you an edge. Your prequalification certificate will help your offer rise above the clutter of speculative offers and not-so-serious buyers and might just be the thing that clinches the deal that will bring you and your perfect home together.

Susan is the marketing director for South Arica’s leading Home-loans portal.

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