To Lock or Not to Lock?

It's not bad enough that buyers are already leary of the the general Las Vegas real estate market. Borrowers also wonder if they should lock in interest rates on their new Las Vegas homes when they first apply for a loan, or should they wait and see where the market goes. My standard response is that my crystal ball is broken, and that if I really knew the answer, I would be playing the international money markets. I have literally heard every lender in town swear that rates were going down and all of a sudden they went up, and visa versa.

So either choice involves some risk. If you lock now and rates fall, you lose. If you don't lock now and rates rise, you also lose. It's all about how much risk you are willing to take and if you are going to be more unhappy if rates rise and you aren't locked, or if you will be more unhappy if rates fall and you are locked.

The first step is to understand how the rate locking process works. There are no industry standards to go by, a lock with one lender may be radically different from the lock in program with another.

Here are some items to verify: What is being locked in? An interest rate? Or an interest rate and points? Points are a form of interest, so if a rate is locked in but not points, then the effective rate for the loan can rise before closing if the interest level stays the same but the number of points increases.

How long is the lock in? A typical lock lasts 30 days, but longer terms may be available, even up to a year on new homes.

Is there an upfront cost to lock the rate? If you pay a fee for a lock and borrow at a different rate or from a different lender, then the prepaid fee will be lost. In some cases, lenders collect a lock in fee and then credit the money to the borrower at closing. In this situation, there is no additional cost to lock the rate if you go through with the loan.

One benefit to look for: is there a "float down" option? You would lock in a rate at the current market interest rate, but if rates fall prior to your closing you would have a one time chance to finance your purchase at a lower rate.

When you lock in a loan rate lenders have one of two choices: They can secure a loan commitment with an investor at the promised rate or they can play the market themselves and hope that by settlement they can get your rate or better.

But what happens if a lender plays the market and rates go up? The lender loses. The problem is that not all lenders play fair. It doesn't happen often, but some lenders will delay the loan application process past the lock period, thus ending their commitment to make the loan.

How can you avoid this problem? Consider Las Vegas mortgage lenders recommended by your broker. An experienced broker will know which lenders have a good record delivering on commitments.

In general, whether you lock in or not, it's best to be in continual contact with the lender. Make a point to promptly supply all required paperwork, and keep notes showing when you spoke with the loan officer and what was discussed. Get timed, dated and signed receipts for all paperwork you deliver.

So when should you lock in? There just isn't a single answer that works for every situation. You need to consider general interest trends and realize that no one can predict future rates.

For more information regarding lock in agreements for your purchase, just call us at 702-985-7654 and we can review the features that can best serve your interests.