|Locking In Rates
When is it appropriate to ‘lock in’ our interest rate?
May 17, 2004
Good question. And, as with the answer to so many things, it depends. Some say:
1. It is considered a fool’s game to try to time the bottom of the market.
2. If you can’t afford to lose, you can’t afford to gamble.
3. Interest rates can, and do, go up…as much as 3/4% or more in one week.
Although we certainly have not seen evidence of it lately, interest rates can rise and fall often and rapidly. The Wall Street “money market” is manipulated by so many factors, it is extremely difficult to predict. Everyone is guessing what might happen, but no one really knows. If you want to be safe, you lock in as soon as your lender will allow it.
Sometimes you need a tough hide to “float” and ride along with the market fluctuations. If you do this, you believe interest rates will fall during the period of your mortgage processing, and you must be prepared to take the consequences if they do not.
Before you decide which way to go, be sure you understand your lender’s rules. Some allow you to lock in at the time of application, generally without cost for 15 to 30 days; some only let you lock in after you are approved for the loan and, in a busy environment, this can take a few weeks. Some will let you lock in for extended periods of time for a fee, often payable upfront and nonrefundable. Some will allow you a “float down” option that provides you with a lower rate if rates go down, typically for a cost.
As you can tell by some of my comments, I would suggest you lock in your rate as soon as you can…then forget about it. You will sleep better. There are not many people who can stand the uncertainty of gambling with this big commitment.
Discuss the options with your loan officer, be sure you understand whether you are getting a “lock” with the lender making the loan and what period it covers. I have heard horror stories of “locks” made for short periods when everyone is so busy, and the timeline for closing is just about impossible. That’s a promise that is useless. Be sure you understand what kind of company you are dealing with, whether you have a true commitment on your rate and fee, one that really be trusted and accomplished.