In today's competitive housing market, you should try to get pre-approved before you begin searching for a home.
Pre-approval means you are approved for a mortgage before beginning to look for a home. Getting a pre-approval permits you to act quickly once you find that perfect home. Home sellers prefer pre-approved buyers because it shows you have gone to a lender and your financing is in place.
Don't confuse pre-approval with pre-qualification. Pre-qualification just means that you have satisfied standard lending ratios.
If you can't afford the house you want with conventional financing, consider using an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or a temporary buy down. Consult your lender for details on your financing options.