How Do Rate Locks Work?

There is one thing in common among all of our clients.  No matter what price point, no matter what loan size, no matter good credit or bad, no matter first-time buyer or seasoned investor, all are looking for the lowest interest rate at the lowest cost.  But how does a mortgage borrower secure such terms?  A part of the home loan process is “locking an interest rate” and this process could use a bit of explanation, so as to dispel some of the myths and offer a better understanding of how things work.

What Is a Rate Lock?

You’ve done your interest rate shopping and made a decision about working with a mortgage lender/broker.  The time has come to “lock” a rate.  What does this really imply?  A rate lock is a commitment the lender makes to you to preserve a given rate for a specific period of time.  In exchange for this commitment, you, the borrower, are insulated from market risk.  Once your rate is locked, that is (barring a few exceptions) the rate you will obtain for the life of the loan.  With many lenders today, there is no cost to lock a rate, but as you’ll see below, there are implications once a lock is in place.  It is fair to say a rate lock is a commitment on both sides of the transaction, borrower and lender.

Time Is of the Essence

All rate locks exist in finite periods of time and the most common lock periods are 30 days, 45 days and 60 days.  Longer locks will commonly have higher rates or costs associated with them, and this is a function of risk.  The longer a lender commits to preserve a rate, the more the lender is exposed to underlying financial market volatility.  Think of your rate lock in the same light as a life insurance policy.  Purchasing a policy with a longer term will be more expensive because the likelihood of a claim increases for the insurer as the years go by.  

Breaking the Chains

So now that you’ve locked your rate, what happens if your lock expires, or you decide to break the lock, or rates go down?  These are all valid questions and they can all be addressed by the blanket statement that just as in life in general, breaking a commitment in finance has consequences as well.  Some lenders offer enticing “float down” policies and suggest that clients can have it both ways — both locked and floating.  There is always an offset with such approaches because behind the scenes in the mortgage secondary market, rates locks are complex hedges that involve costs and have metrics that impact a bank’s efficiency and cost of providing funds.  All lenders want to have strong “pull through” on locks, and their ability to offer future clients competitive rates depends on this.  All this said, sometimes rates do drop dramatically while a borrower is in process and there is potential for a “renegotiation,” but this is not common and any rate lock should always be perceived, first and foremost, as a “for better or worse” proposition.  Finally, transactions that run longer than their lock periods are faced with extension costs, which are best avoided.  Borrowers should know that they cannot deliberately exhaust a rate lock in the hopes of capturing a new, lower rate with the same lender.  In those cases there is often a 30-day “freeze” where a new lock would be subject to “worst case” pricing.

Locking your interest rate on a mortgage is an important decision and an important commitment.  A good lender can help you navigate the nuances of the choices before you.  Fundamentally, one locks a rate to prevent the risk that rates will go higher while in the process of purchasing or refinancing a home.  What we see, in practice, is that deliberate action tends to relieve stress and assure a better outcome.  “Floating” a rate for better is always tempting because as we agree, everyone is enticed by the idea of lower rates and lower costs.  But remember, temptation can lead to unecessary risk and risk is what a rate lock strives to address by tamping down market volatility and containing aspects of your process that you don’t control.  Understanding how a rate lock works and formulating your own plan on locking is a smart move, and we’re here to help you with it.  

Lock ’em and doc ’em,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

How Long Is a Pre-Approval Good For?

You’ve decided to make the leap and enter the real estate market as a buyer.  You’ve been looking at homes online, the temptation has become too strong and you realize it’s time to hit the street and actually start looking at properties.  Your Realtor almost immediately informs you that not only will she not participate in your search before she knows you’re pre-approved, but also that in this pandemic day and age, without a pre-approval letter no serious listing agent will even let you step foot in the home for a viewing.  And so you reach out to your preferred lender and you get pre-approved for a mortgage.  Now, how long will that preapproval be good for?

There are a few elements involved in the lifecycle of a pre-approval so let’s look at some of the ones that typically govern the validity of your profile and the day it may expire:

Credit Report

It’s safe to say that your credit report has a 90-day expiration.  Even in cases where a lender will permit 120 days, we have to assume that a purchase timeline might be 30 days.  Since it’s largely not in your control, you never want your credit report expiring while you’re in contract.  At some point between 75 and 90 days, credit expiration becomes a material factor.  Now, if the original credit pull has you with 800 FICO scores and you’ve done nothing that would jeopardize your strong credit rating, it’s highly unusual for your credit report to suddenly become an issue, but a re-pull is warranted if you think you may enter a non-contingent contract when you’re coming up on your expiration date.

Tax Filing Deadline

In 2020, the income tax filing deadline was July 15, but in most years, April 15 is the day by which you either need to file your tax returns or file an extension.  If your pre-approval did not include this year’s filing and you’ve since filed your return (including e-file), your pre-approval must be updated accordingly.

End of Year

During January and February, most of us get our W-2 forms, our 1099s, K-1s and other year-end statements of earnings.  All of these must be included in your file, so if your property search crosses the end of the year, your pre-approval would need to include the newly released information.

Life Events

If you get a new job, your hours on your current job are reduced or changed, if you get divorced, buy a new car, etc., all of these events could impact your pre-approval.  A good way to conceptualize your pre-approval would be to assume that anything that impacts your income, assets or credits could influence your mortgage application.  Let us know when these things happen and we’ll make the necessary adjustments.

Your mortgage pre-approval is always a work in progress until you go into contract.  We can make any necessary changes and advise on financial aspects in advance too.  We’re here to help and ultimately our goal is to build and maintain and strong and ready file so that you have the best chance of winning your offer.  We need your help to do that and we, in the industry, can all help by reminding you it’s not over until the keys are in your hands.

Best if used before,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

How Long Does It Take to Get Pre-Approved?

Many real estate markets in California move fast, but it’s been this way for years.  When a hot property hits, perhaps there’s a showing on Sunday (more on that in a bit, and in the context of COVID-19) and then offers are due on Tuesday, with some buyers scrambling to make a preemptive offer, if possible.

This reality can run counter to some buyers’ inclinations to get their mortgage financing in order by dipping one toe in the water at a time.  It’s not uncommon for us to get a call that starts something like this:  “My partner and I are thinking about buying a home in the next 3 to 6 months, but we’re first-time buyers and not really sure where to start.  We were told by our real estate agent that we need to get pre-approved and might have some time over the next few weeks to look into this.  Can you help us get started?”  It’s also not terribly unlikely that a house will pop up that grabs these prospects by the heartstrings.  Before we know it, there will be a successive call that goes something like this:  “OMG!  We just saw the perfect home!  Offers are due tomorrow at noon!  What do we need to do to get pre-approved right now?”

So the real question here is, how long does it take to get pre-approved for a mortgage?  Of course, the answer will vary from one borrower to the next.  Some scenarios are quite simple — both borrowers get a W-2, have funds for their down payment in one account and have squeaky clean credit.  Others are massively complex — self-employment, multiple rental properties or entities owned, RSU or other variable income, a credit hiccup in the past, etc.  But at the end of the day, the single biggest factor determine the speed in which we can “decision” a pre-approval and get a buyer into the game comes down to the borrower’s organizational skills.  In other words, if any borrower(s) can complete a thorough and accurate application, then bear down and get us complete documentation for their income, assets and credit, usually and irrespective of complexity, we are almost always able to turn a pre-approval in under 24 hours.  Often, under six hours.  Right now, due to the pandemic, you may not even be able to view a property without a pre-approval letter in hand, so we are seeing a resurgence in interest for pre-approvals on short notice.  

The process and steps for pre-approval generally follow this pattern, and there is no cost or obligation associated with making an application:

  1. We always welcome an initial call to discuss objectives and answer questions.  Call any time!
  2. Our digital mortgage application is one of the industry’s best.  You can complete this user-friendly form in 10 to 15 minutes and whenever convenient.  It is best to tackle the application from a place where you have access to your financial documents so that you can assure accuracy, but even if this is not possible, some will complete the application from their smartphones with perfectly efficient results.
  3. Upon completion of your application, you’ll be prompted to securely upload your financial documents such as paystubs, bank statements, tax returns, etc.  While you can skip this step at this phase, consistent with our theme above if you are able to provide complete documentation, we are able to return a decision with less delay.
  4. We will follow up with you to review your information and issue a pre-approval letter for your search.

If you are “in the market” and your market is in motion, timing to pre-approval should not be a concern.  Yes, if you are able to start and complete the preapproval process without urgency, that’s helpful but not necessary.  We get how the housing market works and we understand what needs to happen when an opportunity arises or materializes.  Let us know when you need our assistance!

Point and shoot,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283