Preapproval Letters, A Security Measure for Realtors

It’s about 10:30 am and the phone rings, it’s a potential buyer for a property I just listed. He says he has been waiting for a property in this neighborhood to come up on the market and is ready to put down an offer today but, he needs to see the property first. As a faithful, good Realtor, I offer to meet him out at the house in 30 minutes or 11:00 am. He says fine, he will see me there.

I pull up, formally introduce myself, open up the house and start walking him through. He tells me his wife is on her way but, she is running late. We get towards the back of the house and, well….I don’t remember anything else after that.

Sad but, this type of story happens and all too often Realtors are victims of horrible crimes while showings homes to strangers. Unfortunately, too many of us are more concerned about doing the best for our clients that we sometimes put our own health and safety at risk. The story above is inspired by countless true stories of Realtors who have been abducted, raped, robbed or even murdered.

One of the simplest things you can do as a Realtor to mitigate your exposure and risk is to ask buyer that you don’t know for a preapproval letter. It may sound very simple, in fact, you were likely taught in real estate school to never show a home without a preapproval letter because, who do you know they can even afford the home you are showing them but, too many of us don’t do this, we don’t require a preapproval letter.

When a buyer calls into my office and wants to see a home, one of the very first questions I ask are, “Have you been preapproved?”. If they say no, then I inform them, before we schedule a showing through my office, we require a preapproval on file. I do this because when I get my copy of their preapproval letter, I call the lender and ask some simple questions…..

                A: Did the buyer come in, sign and submit his loan application?

                B: Did you verify identity and get a copy of an acceptable picture ID?

                C: Did you verify employment, income, debt, credit and tax records?

I hope that at this point, you understand what I am doing by asking these questions. Sure, I am verifying if the buyer can actually purchase but, I am ensuring that the buyer’s identity has been verified. If I know that the lender has done these things, I can be confident that not only is the buyer able to purchase but, we know who the buyer is in case something doesn’t go as planned.

Finally and maybe the most important piece to my personal security and that is a schedule. So many of us, almost all of us I assume, don’t keep thorough showing schedules. Again, it sounds so simple but, so few of us actually do it. Sure, we may plan out our showing route and sure, we call the appointment desk or the other agent if we are running late or early but, how many of you print a copy of your showing schedule out, with a copy of the buyer’s pre-approval letter and verified contact information, place it on your desk in a file titled, “Today’s Showings”. This additional little process gives investigators a place to look and who to look for in case something goes bad. My staff know that Jesse has his showing schedules and buyer list on his desk in his “Showing Schedule” file so, if they ever need to know where I am and when I am suppose to be there….they just go grab the file. Best of all, it has a copy of my planned route via map quest, the times I expect to be at each property and who I am meeting there. On the outside of my folder are my emergency contact numbers and other vital information about myself.

I know chances are, before the year is out, we are going to hear another story about another Realtor who has been victimized and that breaks my heart. I really hope that more and more of us would do more to take care of ourselves and remember, we can’t be a great Realtor …….. if we aren’t here to be one.

Be safe friends, be smart…..get that preapproval letter.

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  • Great post!  Thanks for the information.

  • Great information Jesse!, I will put that, in practice. 

  • Excellent post, Jesse!!! Additionally, if it's someone whose main intention is to cause harm, they will be less likely to be willing to speak to a lender to become pre-approved. They will simply move on to the next target.

  • Marvin - That's a mighty fine looking dog.

  • Hey Marvin Von Renchler, yes....the pre-approval letter is more of a background check than an actual "pre-approval" letter for the very reason you outline and that is most of the time, they are worthless. On the other hand, I do work with a couple banks that actually have a pre-approval with no stips and a "pre-approval" which is nothing more than a over the phone, unverified qualification letter, with nothing but stips. It's funny because, whenever I get an offer from a buyer's agent that sends me these bogus "pre-approval" letter, it really gives me some serious insight as to what kind of buyer's agent I am working With that being said, that's also why I make it a point to call in to a lender on a buyer's pre-approval letter for buyer's I don't know. I specifically ask to know if things like identity, employment and of course income have been verified. This way that pre-approval letter is at the very least, a little mini background check / passive security measure. It's of course not full proof but, it helps.


  • good for both back ground and qualification.  I always google the person, I can find out anything I want to know before I meet them


  • This isnt what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was about just making sure your buyer is qualified. You are using it almost like a background check. I like the idea for THAT use but we all know pre-qual letters are worthless. Totally worthless. At least the buyer made an effort to see a lender. s a former mortgage broker of 28 years, I used to tell the r.e. agents that we were not underwriters and this wasnt an approval. We didnt verify funds, we didnt verify employments. Based on paystubs and taxes if we could get them, the borrowers qualified BUT---and this is a BIG BUTT---I never, ever told what exact amount the borrower was qualified to pay. That could be used for or against the borrower in negotiating the transaction. I would say 'Based on the income and liabilities provided at ths time, the buyer meets the lenders debt ration requirements to make this transaction work according to the terms of the purchase contract. I NEVER just gave someone a letter that said "Borrower qualified to make payments on a loan of $225,000   What if they were constructing a contract calling for 20% down, and the 80% turned out to be 215,000 What if they said that was all they could afford Now, thats not an actual lie as ones comfort level and lifestyle is correlated to an 'amount that they can afford'. If the seller looked at the prequal that said they could afford 225,000, they might not take the lower price being offered. Change that scenario around a few times and you can see how prequals with concrete figures can be a positive or negative.  What is the bottom line Prequal letters should not give important information that violates basic agency---though many states have no agency relationship between mortgage brokers and borrowers, or that can be used for or against one of the parties.


    So what does that make a prequal letter Worthless except they took the time to try the process.  I do like your post and how to use it as a method of separating real buyers from dangerous types.

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