The first step to buying a home, is to determine if you can qualify for a home loan. There is no need getting exited about buying a home, shopping, only to find out you can't get the loan. When you talk to a lender, they will analyze your credit, your income and your debts to determine if you qualify and if so, for what maximum loan amount.
The way I describe it is like this: A pre-qualification is a snapshot of where a potential buyer is at the moment. They accurately tell me what they make, what their liabilities are, I take a look at their credit (with their permission) and we have a benchmark to start from, based on automated underwriting. Time to go looking.
A pre-approval is a more formal. Documentation is required and includes everything for the mortgage, except a specific property. We generate a commitment letter based off of automated underwriting and our local underwriting process. Time to go shopping.
Once a property is identified and a P&S is agreed upon, we update the pre-approval into a loan application and evaluate and underwrite based on the appraisal numbers and selling price.
I am with you every step of the way, so any buyers in MA or NH, please reach out to me ay email@example.com, and I will talk you through the process. For agents, I specialize in VA loans and can advise you on how to engage with your clients.