Mortgage offers and decisions in principle

Before you start your property search, it may help to have a clear idea of how big a mortgage you’ll be able to get.
Getting a mortgage in principle can give you a good idea of how much you might be able to borrow before you submit a full mortgage application and receive a formal mortgage offer.
Here, we explain the difference between a mortgage decision in principle and a mortgage offer.

What is a mortgage decision in principle?

When a mortgage lender gives you a ‘decision in principle’ or ‘agreement in principle’, they are basically saying how much ‘in principle’ they are prepared to lend you.
This can help you look for properties in your price range and provide sellers with confidence that you are ready to buy. To offer you a mortgage in principle, lenders will need some basic details about you, such as your income and how much you want to borrow. They will then usually contact a credit reference agency to conduct a credit search on you.
If your credit score is up to scratch, you’ll be given a certificate which you can show estate agents to prove that you can get a mortgage. Remember though, that a mortgage in principle is not a guarantee that you will definitely be offered a mortgage as when you make a full application and they see more information, the lender may change their decision or offer you different terms.

How long does a mortgage in principle last?

A mortgage in principle will typically last between 60 and 90 days. If it expires before you need it, you can always re-apply, but be careful about requesting too many agreements in principle as lots of credit searches could damage your credit score.

What is a mortgage offer?

A mortgage offer is official confirmation from a lender that it will provide you with a mortgage. You will only be given a mortgage offer once you have gone through the mortgage application process, and provided the lender with all the information they require. They will also want a valuation report for the property you want to buy before they will issue a formal mortgage offer.

How long does it take to get a mortgage offer?

The length of time it will take to get a mortgage offer depends on which lender you go to, how long it takes you to provide them with the information they need, and how straightforward the purchase is. Delays often happen when lenders are waiting for more information from you, so having all the relevant paperwork to hand can help speed the process along. If all goes smoothly, you could get a mortgage offer about a fortnight after your first contact with your mortgage broker.

Find out more about how long it takes to get a mortgage here.
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