Buyers should always apply for and get pre-approval for a mortgage before making an offer. This is so important in today's market. Even though you may have been watching home prices drop in the last few months, the price of money has not. It's been getting more expensive. Thus, if you apply for your mortgage before you've even gotten into the contract-writing process, then you'll already know your buying power, the lender will have already looked at the blemishes on your credit and verified your income and assets.