What is an Agreement in Principle (AIP) and why do I need one when buying a property?

The more I learn about the home buying process, the more I think it’s all about the acronyms.  In most of the research I’ve done, the first step of the home buying process, before you even begin to view properties, is proving that your lender MIGHT lend you the money to buy a house.  This is called an Agreement in Principle (AIP), but also can be called a Decision in Principle (DIP), Mortgage Promise or Lending Certificate.

What is an Agreement in Principal?

An Agreement in Principal (I will refer to them as AIP for the rest of this post) is a certificate or statement from a lender to say that ‘in principle’ they would lend a certain amount to a particular prospective borrower or borrowers based on some basic information. Most providers will require you to complete a form detailing your income and expenditure and the amount you think you would like to borrow.  They may also conduct a credit check.

Although an AIP doesn’t give any guarantees over what size of mortgage you may be offered once you formally apply, it will give estate agents some peace of mind that you can potentially afford the properties that you are viewing.

That all sounds good, where do I sign up?

Hang on just a minute! Many banks boast that you can get an AIP from them in just a few clicks however if they do a ‘hard’ credit check, it will leave a footprint on your credit file, regardless of whether you go on to borrow from them. Too many credit checks on your file can make it hard for to arrange a loan, and the fact that a lender has checked your file stays on record for six years.  Some lenders will leave a soft footprint but they are few in number and may not be the right one for you.

Why should I get an AIP?

Theoretically you could skip the AIP and speak directly with a mortgage broker as they aren’t compulsory but there are a few benefits to getting one.

  • If you have a poor credit history and aren’t sure if you would be accepted for a mortgage, the AIP can give you reassurance about your borrowing prospects.
  • It can give you more credibility with estate agents as it shows that you can move ahead in the process if the offer you make on a property is accepted.

 

We are looking at mortgage brokers now with the view of starting to look at properties from next month and will probably have a chat with the broker before applying for an AIP.

I’d love to hear your experiences with AIP’s.  Did you find it useful in your house hunt? Were you able to get a mortgage without one?