One sure thing about mortgage interest rates is that they fluctuate constantly, based on the strength of the marketplace, the federal funds rate, demand for new homes, and the entire financial ecosystem.

Interest rates can rise or fall based on even the smallest changes – and whether they move up or down, they can have significant impact on the amount you pay on your new home loan or even the amount of house you can afford!

However, even with rising interest rates, all is not lost – knowing the difficulties new home buyers often face, many lenders and home builders offer options and incentives that may help you mitigate the impact rising interest rates have on your ability to buy or afford a home.

One of the ways lenders and home builders help home buyers offset rising mortgage rates is by offering a “mortgage rate lock” – a financial instrument that gives the home buyer the option to “lock-in” an interest rate at a specific level.

What is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

So what is a mortgage rate lock?

A “mortgage rate lock” is a contract signed between a home buyer and a mortgage lender that, for a limited time frame, provides the home buyer with a means of protection against rises in interest rates between the singing of the rate lock contract and the closing on a new home.

If your rate is locked and the overall market rates rise, the contract ensures that your closing rate will remain the same as it was on the day you “locked” it.

The premise of a mortgage rate lock is that it gives you the option to “freeze” your current estimated interest rate and allows you to hold onto that frozen rate throughout the often long and unpredictable process of buying and closing on home.

How does a Mortgage Interest Rate Lock Work

When you choose to lock-in your rate, you are choosing to sign a contract and pay a fee to a lender in order to have them guarantee that your interest rate and terms will be secure throughout the length of the contract, with the plan being that the contract is only just long enough to cover the process.

As long as no “post-lock-in” changes are made to your loan application, the locked-in interest rate will remain the same throughout the process or until the mortgage rate lock contract expires.

How & When Can You Lock in a Mortgage Rate

When you start your journey through the mortgage process, your lender will most likely offer you the option to rate lock your mortgage after your initial loan application has been approved and prior to the underwriting process.

These rate lock policies and fees all vary by lender – and depending on if your buying resale or new construction, you should be prepared to lock in for 30 to 364 days through closing.

When should you lock in your rate?

The answer is a little different for each buyer. Technically, you may lock in a rate any time, but ideally you want your rate lock to span the full length of time it takes to cover through until your closing date. If rates have been rising steadily, you might want to lock in asap – but first, find out how rates have been performing, and ask opinions of trusted professionals. While no one can predict the future, you’ll want to time your lock-in well. Too soon and you may end up having to pay for an extension, too late and you may be paying more in fees than you needed.

How much does it cost to lock in a mortgage rate?

Locking in your mortgage interest rate isn’t often free and lenders’ fees can vary quite a bit based on the loan amount, the length of time the rate is to be locked, and the basis points of the loan.

Length of time is often the biggest factor when it comes to the cost of a rate lock. So keep in mind, the longer your lock is designed to hold, the more it will cost.

Often times lenders will factor in the mortgage rate lock fee as a part of your monthly rate rather than as a separate charge.

How long can you lock in a mortgage rate?

Locked-in rates remain stable for very specific time periods depending on the lender, location, loan type, and loan terms. Because of the associated fees that come with locking in your rate for longer time frames, contracts are typically quite short, often spanning between 30 to 60 days.

However, when buying a new construction home, these contracts, fees, the length of time they cover, and costs can be negotiated somewhat differently. When it comes to buying a new construction home, building, delivery dates and Certificates of Occupancy (CO) can depend on more variables than a resale home, and some may require extra time to address – this leads lenders to offer longer times to keep your rate lock, typically anywhere between 30 – 364 days.

Home builders like K. Hovnanian will have often have their own inhouse lending team that will work with home buyers to offer and determine the their best available lock options and what makes sense for them financially – and as opposed to the often shorter contracts, these options can range anywhere from 30 to 364 days.

What happens if your lock rate expires before closing?

Whether you’re buying a resale home or new construction, as much as you try to plan for it, there is always the possibility of the unexpected – and more often than not, the house buying process can be fraught with delays.

Can you extend a rate lock?

The short answer? “Yes.”

If your rate lock contract expires before you close on your home, you typically only have 2 options:

  1. Pay extra fees to extend the rate lock.
  2. Let the rate lock contract expire.

A lender or financial expert will do what they can to help you prepare for all possible complications, but not everything can be accounted for nor foreseen.

For example, when building a new home there are sometimes construction variables like supply chain slowdowns, shortages or labor issues that will delay the completion dates of the new homes. Home Builders cannot control factors like these, and are sometimes forced to postpone closings beyond the Rate Lock Mortgage period.

Or if you’re purchasing a resale home, there can be multiple delays due to home inspection issues, title or deed issues, financial checks, long escrow procedures, etc.

But be aware! In either case, if your mortgage rate lock expires before closing and a rate lock extension becomes necessary, it will be up to you as the buyer to either assume the additional costs of the extension or to let the rate lock expire.

How Much Does It Cost to Extend a Rate Lock

We now know that a rate lock extension is possible and, that if we need it, it’s probably going to cost us, but how much?

A typical fee to extend the Mortgage Rate Lock is often around 0.45% of the loan amount, but can vary from lender to lender.

If at all possible, extending a rate lock is something you want to avoid, but it’s there and available should you you need it – so be sure talk to your lender well before locking in the expiration date to see what extension options are in place.

Why a Mortgage Rate Lock May Be Worth Considering

When it comes to a mortgage rate lock it’s all about the math! Especially so if rates are on the rise.

Say for example your buying a $300,000 home financed for 30 years at 4%, with a 20% down payment. If interest rates were to rise by just 0.25% before closing to 4.25%, your monthly payments will rise by $44/month, from $1,432 to $1,476. In just 5 years, that would add up to more than $2,600. In comparison, a typical 0.25% – 0.50% fee to lock in the 4% rate would be just $600 – $1200.

What if the market rate drops instead of rises?

The “Float-Down” Option

It’s all sounds great locking in your rate if rates are rising, but what happens if those rates drop? Are you still locked in?

That’s where it’s important to ask your lender about “float-down” options. A float-down allows you to take advantage of a drop in interest rates during the lock period. With a mortgage rate lock from 30 to 90 days, you are protected from higher rates, and with a one-time float-down option, you have an opportunity to benefit from a fall as well.

That said, float-down options can often come with their own caveats and intricacies. The options and requirements for when this option can be used vary quite a bit – so it’s important to ask your lender about these options, their availability, and how and when you can use them.

If you are expecting your closing may take some time, and are electing a longer-term lock from 120 to 364 days, a float down option may also be available – ask your lender!  

The Pros and Cons of a Mortgage Rate Locks

Pros of a Mortgage Rate Lock
  1. Peace of mind and protection from unforeseen upswings in interest rates between mortgage application and closing.
  2. Failing to lock in a rate, may end with a higher interest rate and larger monthly mortgage payments for the life of the loan.

Cons of a Mortgage Rate Lock
  1. It may be expensive to get an extension if your transaction needs more time.
  2. A rate lock may lock you out of a lower interest rate if rates fall after you get your loan offer.

Is it worth it to lock your mortgage rate?

In general, yes, especially if you are risk-averse. While a lock may not necessarily comprise the least expensive loan deal, it’s more about homebuyer protection and comfort. If you have done due diligence in identifying the right provider and rates, your Mortgage Rate Lock offers a sense of security against unforeseen market volatility.

Mortgage Rate Lock FAQs

Daily, sometimes hourly! Mortgage interest rates are in constant flux, and change frequently based on a variety of market and economic factors.

You can lock in your mortgage rate as soon as you complete your loan application.

Technically no, but changing lenders at this stage can be tedious and costly – be sure to do your research first.

This shouldn’t happen, but there are circumstances where it might:
  1. The property’s appraised value changes from the time you initially locked your loan
  2. Your credit profile or qualifying income changes between the time you initially locked your loan and the loan closing
  3. Your requested loan amount increases or decreases after you first locked your loan.
  4. The type of loan you are applying for changes.
  5. Your down payment amount changes.
  6. Income info like bonuses or overtime can’t be verified.

No, pre-approval does not lock in your interest rate. At the pre-approval stage you are still subject to market fluctuations – you’re rate can only be locked in when you sign a mortgage rate lock contract after loan approval.

No. In order to lock in your rate you and your lender must sign a rate lock contract.

Yes. However, due to fees and expenses, most long term locks are used when buying a new construction home as opposed to a resale home – new construction lenders will often lock mortgage rates for periods of 120 days, 180 days, 270 days, and 360 days.  

At K. Hovnanian Homes, with meticulous attention to detail and excellent customer service, we take pride in building beautiful new construction homes and communities across the nations – with a wide offering of homes and designs, you can be sure to find a new home to fit both your lifestyle and your budget.

For more information, Contact Us Today or use our home search to Find a K. Hovnanian Community in your area, state, or across the country!

                    Sources: ConsumerFinance.gov

Last Updated on December 7, 2022