Preapproval is a tentative first step in which a lender or mortgage broker tells you how big a mortgage you may qualify for. It's tentative because it isn't thorough and the amount isn't guaranteed. Some brokers may take your income and asset information and do very little to verify the figures. Rental income may affect preapproval and also the final full approval.
If you're planning to buy a second home and rent it out part-time or to buy a home as a year-round rental, the future income you expect won't matter in the preapproval process. When a bank preapproves a loan, it wants to see proof of your income, not speculation about what you're going to make in the future. Even if a broker does issue you a preapproval letter based on your predictions, your lender will probably exclude the income later in the process.
Debt to Income
Your income matters because lenders have rules about how much debt you can carry safely. If you spend more than 28 percent of your income on your housing payment -- mortgage, insurance and taxes -- you rank as a risky borrower. The same caution applies if your housing payment plus your other debt payments adds up to 36 percent of your income. The more income you show you have, the bigger a mortgage you can afford.
Profit and Loss
If you already own a rental, you need to show you've had a steady income from the property for at least a year. Otherwise the lender may decide it's too uncertain to count in preapproval, let alone later. If the lender's doing a thorough preapproval, she'll look at your rental expenses as well as your income. Your preapproval figure will be based on net income, after expenses. Mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration require at least three years of steady income.
You may be able to get away with fudging numbers or making optimistic predictions during preapproval. That won't help you if you go further in the process and the underwriters start crunching your numbers. You have to present your tax returns, for instance, so the underwriter will know every rental expense you've written off on your taxes. Even if you don't think some of the expenses should count -- because they were one-time emergency repairs, say -- the bank's unlikely to agree.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.