Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is the first step of the home buying process. Getting a pre-approval letter from a lender gets the ball rolling in the right direction.
First, you need to know how much you can borrow. Knowing how much home you can afford narrows down online home searching to suitable properties, thus no time is wasted considering homes that are not within your budget. (Pre-approvals also help prevent disappointment caused by falling in love with unaffordable homes.)
Second, the loan estimate from your lender will show how much money is required for the down payment and closing costs. You may need more time to save up money, liquidate other assets or seek mortgage gift funds from your family. In any case, you will have a clear picture of what is financially required.
Finally, being pre-approved for a mortgage demonstrates that you are a serious buyer to both your real estate agent and the person selling their home.