How Long Do You Have to Lock In a Mortgage Rate?

couple applying for a personal loan.
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Mortgage rates can change daily, and a rate lock protects your interest rate from rising before closing — as long as it’s within the specified time frame and there are no changes made to your application.

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When you apply for a mortgage, the preapproval process can take anywhere from one to three business days, according to American Family Insurance. Once you’re preapproved, you’ll receive a letter from the lender that usually contains a price cap and a deadline, typically from 60 to 90 days. However, you’ll usually have a 45-day window for mortgage shopping.

The lender will also ask you if you want to lock in the rate or float the rate. Rate locks are typically available for 30, 45 or 60 days, and sometimes longer, per the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Choosing to float your interest rate means you’re willing to take the risk of interest rates going up while hoping they’ll drop even more.

The CFPB also noted that there may be a downside to locking your mortgage rate. If your transaction will take more time than expected, it could be expensive to extend your rate lock. Doing so could also lock you out of a lower interest rate if rates fall even further. 

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Your interest rate can also change if there are any changes made to your application, even if it’s locked, according to the CFPB.

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Rate lock policies also vary by lender, so it’s important to ask each lender a few of the following questions.

  • What does it mean if I lock my interest rate today?
  • What is the rate lock time frame?
  • Are shorter or longer rates available, and how much would that cost?
  • What if my closing is delayed?
  • If my rate is locked, are there any circumstances under which my rate could change?
  • Do you offer a float-down option?

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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