A new tool is available for homebuyers looking for an answer to that all-important question: Will I qualify for a loan?

Last month, St. Paul, Minnesota-based NorthstarMLS rolled out TLCengine, a feature its nearly 15,000 agent and broker members can use to help their clients choose homes they can afford. Now, the startup of the same name has announced that the feature includes a built-in “engine” designed to match homebuyers’ ability to qualify for a loan against any of the 28,000 single-family homes listed for sale on NorthstarMLS.

At the beginning of this year, a new “qualified mortgage” rule requiring mortgage lenders to ensure that borrowers have the ability to repay their loans went into effect. TLCengine says it can tell consumers if they’re likely to meet the test of the current “QM” rules — no loan application needed.

“One of the great benefits for consumers is this new insight — TLC can help remove the fear that may be keeping them from purchasing a property,” said Paul Sigurdson, a veteran agent with Counselor Realty, in a statement.

“It can be a dream-shattering experience to find a home that suits your wants and needs, only to be told you won’t qualify after you’ve made an offer.”

Sample screen shot of TLCengine's

Sample screen shot of TLCengine’s “QM” feature

Realtors will also be able to help consumers find out if they qualify for more home than they thought, or, if they don’t currently qualify, help them figure out a game plan for what they’ll need to get a loan approval, Sigurdson said.

The tool is currently available only to clients working with a NorthstarMLS member. Homebuyers must enter their current credit scores as well as their income, down payment amount and property purchase price.

The accuracy of the data will be refined over time, said TLCengine co-founder Krishna Malyala.

“The TLCengine gets smarter when local agents add the actual expenses provided by the seller for each home they list,” he said in a statement. “Big data becomes smart data when you have real information being added to our system.”

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