An important first step in buying a home is to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.  There is a difference between getting pre-qualified for a loan and getting pre-approved for a loan.  A pre-qualificaton is a conversation with a lender and based upon that conversation the lender tells you what you would qualify for.  A pre-approval means you have given the lender financial information and your documents have been processed and you are pre-approved for the loan.  A pre-approval carries much more value than a pre-qualification, expecially when competing with other buyers.  A pre-approval lets a seller know you are approved and ready to purchase a home and that you wont have to scramble at the last minute to gather lender information to get your loan in order.