You really should talk to a lender about financing before you start looking. This in most cases is the largest purchase you will make and you need to be prepared. The more prepared you are the smoother the transaction will be also.
Not all banks are created equal. Every bank has different programs and guidelines. There are also a lot of government programs available. First time home owners can find no money down or low down payment loans also. If you start looking early you have a better chance on finding a loan that fits your circumstances.
Once you start looking there is nothing worse than finding a house for $150,000, fall in love with it and find out you can only spend $130,000. Or even worse, find out you don’t qualify for a mortgage at all. Checking before hand can save you a lot of heart ache.
With your offer to purchase, you have a financing contingency with a time frame to secure financing. The best way to fulfill this is to have a jump start on your loan process. This way if there are any issues with your finances they can be taken care of right away.
I commonly will have buyers give a copy of their pre-approval letter with the offer to purchase, this lets the sellers know the buyers are serious. If for some reason there is a multiple offer situation that pre-approval letter can make your offer more appealing.