Rate Hold vs Pre-Approval – A Common Misconception

Rate Hold vs. Pre-Approval

Rate Hold vs Pre-Approval – A Common Misconception

mis-con-cep-tion (noun) – a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding; mistaken notion; an erroneous conception.

With not knowing how to start this particular blog post, I decided to look for some images that might summarize the topic best – What is the difference between a RATE HOLD and a PRE-APPROVAL?

I thought this picture 100% represented how these terms are perceived, you say one thing but you mean the opposite. For most people the term PRE-APPROVAL is more commonly used than the latter. The term RATE HOLD is generally only used in the broker/lender sphere.

Many years ago (seems like the ice age ago) one could place a phone call to their personal banker and lock in a mortgage, then it switched to only requiring a paystub, maybe a bank statement and T4s.  Whereas now one requires their entire biography and proof of net worth followed by a blood sample… somewhat facetious, but there is more involved as lenders need to make an accurate risk assessment.

Times have changed and so should our line of thinking. Underwriting mortgages is not cheap and lenders have upfront costs that take years to recoup.

Rate Hold

These are generally automated where nobody even looks at the application.  The system only analyzes basic criteria; beacon score, loan-to-value, name and birthdate. No documents are even reviewed. A rate hold is simply just that, a rate hold. It’s just a certificate guaranteeing the stated rate for a stated period of time, usually to a maximum of 120 days. Rate holds are mostly utilized for borrowers who are going to purchase or refinance in the near future.


The pre-approval approach is generally a more detailed process, with all documents being reviewed, except for the subject property. The lender will have to approve the covenant based on the information provided such as employment, source of the down payment and credit history criteria. Approval of these three pillars is NOT a guarantee that the mortgage application will be approved. The lender still has to do its due diligence on the fourth pillar (subject property) as it must still meet all the lender’s and insurer’s guidelines if there is less than a 20% down payment.

The most common question you will hear during the purchase process is, ARE YOU PRE-APPROVED?

I have worked with numerous clients that thought they were PRE-APPROVED by their ‘bank.’ But during the subject removal timeline found out that they were NOT pre-approved, all for various reasons. Instead, there should be a series of questions asked:

  • Have you consulted with your Mortgage Expert?
  • If so, when was the last time you had a conversation with her/him?
  • Is there a rate hold or pre-approval in place? Do you understand the difference(s)?
  • Have you sent her/him your complete package of documents that was requested?
  • Are there any changes to employment, credit, the down payment or the purchase price?
  • Have you discussed the ‘plan’ for this property? This will determine the term and mortgage product chosen.
  • …and much more…

As you can see, there is much more to consider than just, ARE YOU PRE-APPROVED?

No one mortgage is exactly the same as someone else’s. The mortgage process is a complex labyrinth of puzzle pieces that have to fit together perfectly. Note that the puzzle pieces are constantly changing in this industry.

Due to the steep underwriting costs of each mortgage application, most lenders are electing to follow the RATE HOLD process. By analyzing a complete 4 pillar mortgage application package (credit, employment, down payment and subject property), the lender is able to maximize dollars spent to acquire a new client. Navigating the RATE HOLD/PRE-APPROVAL process should be left up to your trusted Mortgage Expert.

The best PRE-APPROVAL is the one that comes from your Mortgage Expert because they can analyze and do a pre-underwrite even before doing a RATE HOLD. With their expert advice you can construct a strategy that is tailored specifically to your mortgage financing scenario.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Dominion Lending Centres!