It's a great starting point! A pre-approval letter from a competent lender can help show you the direction you need to go when thinking of buying a home or property. Knowing how much home you can afford is a great benefit when starting to look at differnt properties. It can save lots of time and heartache. It's no fun looking at homes in a certain price range only to find out later that it's not in your budget. Getting a pre-approval from a lender will help aid your Realtor in finding the house or property that will fit your wants & needs and also be affordable.
Although a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will qualify, it will give you a good idea of the amount you can borrow, how much payments would be & what type of loan would fit your needs best. In today's market, more & more seller's are asking for a pre-approval letter from a lender when a buyer submits an offer to purchase. Having that up front saves time for all involved.