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Rate-lock duration can vary based on clients' needs. Shorter rate locks are used when loans are virtually approved, but rates are somewhat volatile. Middle-range locks (30 to 45 days) are most common and are frequently used when the loan process is already under way and rates are on the move. Longer rate locks often involve greater costs in rates and points, so brokers and loan officers should help their clients take a harder look at market trends before deciding to lock.
If market rates are steady or if the market is declining, a rate lock might not be advised. Some lenders, however, offer a "float-down option," which allows the mortgage rate to drop even if it was previously locked in at a higher level.
Of course, even with the diligence of brokers and loan officers who have borrowers' best interests in mind, unexpected external events can impact the mortgage market overnight. These events -- such as hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis -- can cause rapid rate increases or delays in loan closings.
Depending on a broker's philosophy, rate locks might be seen as beneficial or superfluous. Borrowers must decide for themselves if mortgage rates are changing fast enough to warrant a lock-in rate or not and how long a lock might be needed. A qualified and knowledgeable loan officer can certainly help.
Shelly Lake is a loan officer for West Coast Mortgage. Based in Escondido, Calif., the firm was established to provide low-cost real estate financing throughout the United States. Its principals have been in the mortgage industry for 55 years combined. WCM maintains a staff of qualified loan officers available for immediate assistance by calling (760) 747-6000 or by visiting www.westcoastmortgage.com.
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