Note: This blog was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated.

Though there are several factors that impact how much you’ll pay for your mortgage, one of the most important is your mortgage interest rate. When you’re preparing to purchase a home, the interest rate you are quoted on the day of your initial inquiry with a mortgage company will be subject to daily or weekly fluctuations, meaning that rate can and will change over time. This is because mortgage interest rates are partially determined by the Federal Reserve and the bond market, which may rise or fall. If you’re ready to buy a home, learn why you should lock in a mortgage rate and when might be the right time to lock.

A mortgage rate lock does what it says it does: it freezes the current rate so it won’t increase or decrease during the lock period. This is a great way to save money in the long run if you see a rate you like. Bryan Harrison, Branch Manager at NFM Lending, commented, “If you have a rate that you are comfortable with and you can afford the monthly payment, you should talk to your Loan Originator and get the lock in writing”.

Lock periods are commonly offered for 30 or 60 days, but you can ask your lender for shorter or longer options. The rate you choose to keep will be honored until the lock period expires. Agreeing to a longer lock period often comes at a higher cost; ask your lender for an estimate on how long closing can take so you can decide on the best lock period.

While the rate lock will be valid during the timeframe, be aware that your rate may change if your credit score drops, you decide to take another loan type, or if there is an issue during the loan’s underwriting. Additionally, because a rate lock prevents you from being affected by rate hikes, it also prevents you from being able to cash in should rates fall. Some rate locks may have a float-down option, which means you can take advantage of lower rates during the lock period; speak with your lender to see if they offer this.

Once you’ve locked your rate, be aware that the rate could be the same for the duration of the loan (a fixed rate loan), or it could change periodically (a variable rate loan). Speak with your Loan Originator about the difference and the benefits of both types.

A rate lock that establishes a monthly mortgage payment you are comfortable with and gives you peace of mind is probably the right one for you. When you encounter a great interest rate, don’t hesitate – lock it down.

If you have any questions or want more information about locking in a mortgage rate, contact one of our Licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the homebuying process, click here to get started!

*Other terms and conditions apply. A 1 point up-front fee may be collected from the borrower at time of lock, which will be applied to the borrower’s closing cost at settlement. Program not available in all areas. Offers may vary and are subject to change at any time without notice.

When applying for a loan, one of the most important factors that will come into play is your credit score. Before you start the loan application process, you should have a clear understanding of how your credit score affects your mortgage rate so you can assess your financial situation.

Most lenders use the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) model for credit scores. This model provides consumers a numerical value on a scale between 300-850. Typically, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate the lender will offer to you. Lenders use your credit score to determine how reliable you’ll be as a borrower and the likelihood that you’ll repay the loan as agreed upon. Essentially, they want to make sure you’ll make your mortgage payments on time each month. A lower score might indicate that a borrower could make late payments or even miss some. This is all part of your credit history, which they will also take into consideration.

So, can a bad credit score ruin your chances at obtaining a mortgage?

Not necessarily. It mostly impacts which type of loan you’ll qualify for and the interest rate you’ll receive. A conventional loan usually requires a minimum of a 620 credit score, whereas an FHA loan has a minimum of 580. However, it’s important to note that while some loan programs accept lower credit scores, they might require a larger down payment or some other way to mitigate the lender’s risk in taking on the loan. In addition, even though someone with a 580 credit score COULD qualify for an FHA loan, it does not mean that they will; it is at the discretion of the lender within the guidelines of the loan programs.

Let’s look at an example of how a 100-point difference in credit score can impact a borrower’s mortgage payment.*

A borrower has obtained a conventional fixed-rate 30-year loan of $200,000 with 10% down, meaning the amount borrowed is $180,000. She has a 750 credit score and received a 4% interest rate. Her monthly mortgage payment is $859 (not factoring in other fees, such as private mortgage insurance (PMI) or real estate taxes that may be included in the payment). Now, say that borrower dropped to a 650 credit score. She instead received a 5% interest rate. That increases her monthly mortgage payment to $966. That 100 point difference between credit scores ultimately means an extra $107 added to her mortgage payment each month. While that might not seem like a big deal, keep in mind the duration of the loan is 30 years. Having a higher interest rate means a yearly difference of $1,284; over 30 years that totals $38,520.

If you’re interested in comparing interest rates and monthly mortgage payments, use our mortgage calculator.

If your credit standing isn’t ideal, there are ways to build your credit score.**

Don’t worry if your credit isn’t the best right now. Raising your credit score can take a lot of time, patience, and discipline. However, if you follow these simple guidelines you will soon notice a positive change in your credit and ultimately your financial future. You’ll be able to qualify for better rates when it’s finally time to buy a home.

To learn more about credit scores and interest rates, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

*The figures used in this example are hypothetical and the results are intended for illustrative and educational purposes only. **NFM Lending is not a credit repair company. Please contact a credit repair company for more information on how to improve your credit score.