You wouldn’t go to the grocery store without bringing your wallet. And for major purchases like home appliances or furniture, you’d make sure you had enough money (or credit) to cover the cost of that new dishwasher or sofa before heading to the showroom.

But when it comes to buying a home, tons of would-be homeowners start house hunting before they sort out their mortgage financing. And shopping for a home without first getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a lot like heading to the store without having any idea of how much money you’ve got in your wallet, or whether you’ve got your wallet on you at all.

Pre-approval is the first big step towards getting a mortgage. Lenders look at your income, assets, debts, and credit and use that information to decide whether you’d be a good candidate for a mortgage. And if you are a good candidate for a mortgage, the pre-approval letter will also let you know how much money you qualify to borrow.

Why should I get pre-approved for a mortgage?

With a mortgage pre-approval, you’ll be able to:

Avoid surprises – Often, would-be homebuyers discover credit issues that need to be addressed before they’ll qualify for a mortgage, or find out that they qualify for less home financing than they thought they would.

It’s inconvenient and a little embarrassing to get to the front of the checkout line only to discover that you can’t pay for your items. If you discover an issue with credit or financing early enough in the home-buying process, you’ll be able to address the matter or adjust your house-hunting strategy. But finding out that you won’t be able to secure financing after you make an offer can cost you a lot of wasted time—and in some cases, actual money.

Confirm your price range – With a pre-approval letter in hand, you’ll know exactly how much money a mortgage lender would be willing to loan you to purchase a home.

Now, the fact that a lender is willing to loan you a certain amount doesn’t mean that you should buy a home that costs exactly that much. You’ll want to do your own budgeting to settle in on an amount you are comfortable spending on a home. You may decide you want to spend less than a lender is willing to let you borrow. But being pre-approved can keep you and your real estate agent focused only on homes you can actually afford.

Get some of that paperwork out of the way – When you do finally find the home of your dreams, being pre-approved means you won’t need to hustle to round up all of the necessary supporting documents required for a mortgage application, because you’ll have done most of it for your pre-approval already.

You’ll only need to update the information you’ve already got on file. And less paperwork means less stress—and more time to think about what color to paint your new dining room.

Show sellers that you’re serious and qualified – This is probably the single biggest benefit to getting pre-approved for a mortgage: having a pre-approval letter to include when you make an offer on a home shows sellers that you’re serious about purchasing.

No seller wants to put in time and effort with a potential homebuyer who might not be able to secure financing. A pre-approval letter in-hand can go a long way towards convincing a seller that you’re the right buyer for their home. In especially tight real estate markets, some sellers—or seller’s agents—won’t consider offers without pre-approval at all.

Getting Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

The process for getting pre-approved for a mortgage is pretty straightforward. If you’re organized, you can complete the whole pre-approval application in about ten minutes. (For a list of the sorts of documents you’ll want to have ready, check out our mortgage application checklist here.)

Morty’s Pre-Approval application is fast, easy, and all online—which means no wasting reams of paper printing old bank statements, or trying to find a fax machine like it’s 1987. You can finish the entire thing without picking up the phone or talking to anyone (though we’ve got real-human mortgage experts available if you’ve got questions). If you qualify for a mortgage pre-approval based on the information in your financial profile, you’ll be able to download a pre-approval letter right away.

And as an added bonus, folks who get pre-approved through Morty have access to Morty’s shop-and-compare mortgage marketplace. So when the time comes to choose a lender, you’ll be able to compare real offers side-by-side and find the best mortgage for you.

If you’re serious about buying a home, there’s no better time to get pre-approved than early in your home-buying process. Buyers who take the time to get pre-approved in advance have happier, less-stressful home-buying experiences. You can get started with your Morty pre-approval here.