Moscow’s Sellers Market is showing signs of cooling

Moscow Idaho real estate house marketFor those of you Buyers who’ve been in the market a long time for a home, who are annoyed at the low inventory and the lofty price tags attached to homes, may find it hard to believe that this sellers market could be nudging in any direction, particularly to your advantage, but what I am seeing shows some cracks in this sellers market.

Moscow idaho real estate fed funds4-1So you don’t have to put all your trust in this one agent who has seen homes sitting a little longer on the market and noted less homes selling for asking price, the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy committee raised rates a .25% last March and have planned to raise them two more times in 2017. This will put mortgage rates at a whole 1% higher than it was a year ago by November which has an impact on what borrower’s can afford to pay. Often people do not take into account who really sets the prices on the market. It is not the sellers agent or broker. It is not the sellers either. It is those who are bring the money to the table to buy that home–the buyers. If the buyers cannot qualify for a loan to purchase a house, then that house will not sell at “that” price. The higher rates will eventually have an impact on what homes may sell for.

Another aspect to consider is renting v. buying. The Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index, is an index that analyzes whether the current housing market is one that is better to rent in or buy in. The BH&J looks at the US housing market as a whole while also focusing on 23 major cities to compare markets across the nation, and the numbers have continued to move closer to a buyers territory. The index shows in some markets estimates where renting will top home ownership in 7 out of 10 markets.

These two factors are the first cracks to show in this solid sellers market. One more is more my personal opinion so take from it what you wish. I have also noticed that mortgage requirements are easing. For instance, the Mortgage Bankers Association tracks the availability of mortgage credit through the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI), and this index has been trending upwards. Last September it was hovering around 167 and last month around 183. Personally, I believe in identifying patterns to know what is coming next and one pattern I’ve noticed with banks is they loosen credit requirements when the market is trending towards its top, right before it tips the scales in the other direction.

All this said, I wouldn’t go kicking your heels up just yet if you’re a buyer or feeling down in the dumps if you’re a seller. The housing market is notoriously slow in responding to the economic indicators that surround it. I would though consider it cause for getting off the fence if you are considering selling or buying now to avoid paying higher rent and to get ahead of those rate hikes that will leave you perpetually paying a higher interest rate on your mortgage.

Shannon May realtor Moscow Idaho

217 S. Main St., Moscow
O: 208.882.0800
C: 208.892.9256

With rates going up, how to land the best loan

Moscow Idaho real estate Financial Graph, up

While a few fed rate hikes in recent months has pulled home loan rates up a bit, rates sitting around 4.25 is still fairly low in the larger picture, but that does not mean stay on the sidelines in this sellers market.

Below are a few pointers on ways to capture the best loan– lowest rate possible, lowest down payment, help with down payment or closing costs– to help you figure out what will be the best move for you. In this sellers market when buyers make an offer, it is ever important that they present themselves as most able to attain the funding for the loan so that “just right” home won’t slip through your fingers.checklist-1919292_1920

Get pre-qualified by a lender

Some already know why getting a pre-qualified letter from a lender gives buyers an advantage over other buyers. (Those who don’t: A pre-qualified letter shows that the buyers are financially able to obtain a loan for the needed funds to close on the house. Any other buyers who make offers without one have no evidence of being able to pay for the house which is quit an advantage. Naturally, sellers air towards those offers with the pre-qualified letters.) What many don’t know is borrowers who get a pre-qualified letter from a lender are significantly more likely to be satisfied with their lenders. Researching your lender options and what they offer while you’re not “under the gun” to obtain a loan allows borrowers time to make sure they find the lender that is right for them, offering the best programs and products available. Don’t wait until you are writing an offer on a home to find a lender. Do it first, before you find “that” home.

 

Lock in a low rate

chests-34153_1280 moscow idaho real estateCommonly, I would not push this, but the cost of locking in a rate could be paid off in the first year of your mortgage payments given how much the rate goes up. For instance, on a $200,000 home loan, at 5% (for ease of numbers) is about $30 dollars a month. Paying for a lock to dodge another .25% rate hike would be paid off in the first year.

Apply Online

Online MOrtgage Lenders Copyright free Pixabay Moscow Idaho REal estateNow like many Realtors®, I do have some personal favorite lenders who I know to do excellent work for my clients, but I’d be remiss to mention how the market for lenders has become more competitive now that lenders have shed the brick and mortar and gone solely online, passing those savings to their clients. Online lenders such as Quicken Loans and Guaranteed Rate, make up about half of the mortgage market. Thanks to their digital foundation, their process tends to be more streamlined and their rates can be competitive, so if you can forgo the individual attention you will have in a brick and mortar institution, this may be a good way to go. (JDPower.com published a survey that shares which online lenders were liked most/least.) If not, then you could use what they offer as ammo for negotiating a better rate or loan offer from your preferred mortgage broker or lender.

Want a fixer upper but don’t think you can get a loan to cover the rehab job?

203K. That is the name of the type of loan that will allow you to roll into your home loan additional funding meant solely for rehab. Buyers can get a maximum of $35,000 with a 203K. At closing, you will get half of the 203K loan to give to contractors as down payment and the last half comes in 4 months. (Note, all work must be done inside of 4 months.) If there is any money left over, it is put towards your principal.

Moscow Idaho real estate empty pockets

Need help with down payment and closing costs?

If you area first time home buyer (or not), your credit is not the best, and you have at least .5% of the home price to put down, you may qualify for Idaho Housing’s 10-year down payment and closing costs assistance 2nd mortgage program. Whew. That is possibly the longest title of a loan program I’ve ever typed but worth the effort if you want a home and down payment or closing costs is the only thing that stands between you and owning a home. To know if you might be eligible, contact your lender and ask about it.

How to avoid paying Mortgage Insurance Premiums

Many apply for a Federal Housing Authority  (FHA) loan because they lack the funding for down payment (FHA loans require only 3.5% down payment) and those with credit scores of 580 or higher can qualify. While FHA’s help people get into homes, FHA’s are considered riskier loans and therefore come with mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) that buyers have to pay up front and for the life of the loan each month which comes at a cost of .85% premium. If buyers have good credit and can qualify, the better option might be to go with a low-down payment conventional loan. In the long run, buyers will save more money not paying MIP.

 

More than one in five buyers regret the mortgage lender they chose when buying their home. Many go with the first lender they talk to or the lender of the bank where they have a checking account. I encourage to expand your search and do it sooner than they days around when you make an offer on a home. Doing so can make the process go more smoothly and guarantee that you are getting the best loan possible for you and your family. As a former educator, I can’t help but say–doing your homework will be worth the results. ;o)

Sources

Shannon May realtor Moscow Idaho

217 S. Main St., Moscow
O: 208.882.0800
C: 208.892.9256

Why for sale by owner isn’t a good plan, Part 2

workstation-148084_1280 Pixabay Moscow ID real estateFor Sale By Owners are commonly unfamiliar with the contract and related processes required to close the deal

The job of selling a home goes well beyond finding a buyer offering the right purchase price. Real estate contracts are riddled with deadlines and clauses full of contingencies related to mortgages, inspections, appraisals, not to mention the ones added by buyers and sellers. Finding competent professionals to handle loans, surveys (when needed), inspections, appraisals, repairs to a broken title, and home repairs-all without missing any deadlines can make reaching the closing date challenging at the least and near impossible for owners who work full time and aren’t ready to manage a contract of this size and nature.

For Sale by Owners usually lack the marketing know-how moscow idaho real estate marketing plan

While it is a Realtor’s® job to craft a professional and digitally comprehensive marketing plan that is tested and proven effective over many applications, a homeowner has not likely sold a home before, and as a result would be unable to advertise their home for sale to the degree and exposure a Realtor® can. Home owners commonly have a yard sign and a listing or two a couple websites at best, but an agent worth their professional metal will go far beyond that using: listing on the official MLS site (where the home owner cannot list) which populates listings on many other real estate-based sites, their broker’s website, the agent’s own website, and utilize paid advertising on many social media sites. More exposure equals best sale price.

For Sale by Owners do not have real estate network that a Realtor has

moscow idaho real estate realtors network agentsBeing in the real estate industry has its perks such as developing a network of professionals who we can communicate with regarding a new listing. Realtors® keep on hand contact information for all the Realtors® they have ever worked with and can call on them when they are about to advertise a new listing which can be handy for both buyers and sellers to get wind of a new listing as soon as it happens. Tapping their network of agents who have clients watching the market ensures the greatest possible exposure for the home.

Homeowners are emotionally vested in the process which inhibits their objectivity

goats-2189621_1920 moscow idaho real estateHomeowners are emotionally attached to their home, making it difficult to see beyond their fond memories of living there to what the reality is-what is the home really worth to buyers (not them) and what should be done to improve the curb appeal. Also, they run the risk of responding in anger when a buyer unintentionally offends them which can kill a potential sale. On the other hand, a Realtor® is a neutral party with much experience of knowing what sells a home and what does not. They can advise not only the best price possible, but how to stage the home to capture aspects popular with buyers in the current market. The Realtor® serves as the objective party who can bring the sellers down off the ceiling and back to the negotiating table when potential buyers offend them in some fashion. Without a Realtor® to help guide homeowners through the process, reminding them why negotiating a good counter offer is better than walking away, potential deals die before they ever came to life.

 

So, if you were considering the merits of listing your home yourself, I hope I’ve made a reasonable case for why you would be better served to use an agent. If I have, feel free to explore my About Me as a Real Estate Agent page and give me a call.

Shannon May realtor Moscow Idaho

217 S. Main St., Moscow
O: 208.882.0800
C: 208.892.9256

Why For Sale By Owner isn’t a good plan, Part 1

Moscow, Idaho Sell HomeA new job. Down-sizing for retirement. Found that Forever Home you’ve always dreamed of. Whatever the reason- you know you are going to move and you need to sell your home. You start thinking about what you may get for your home and the costs involved in selling. Those of you who are perfect models of how to find discounts would look into what Realtors® are paid and make that face. You know the one- just like the face you make when you just found out the movie theater has raised the price of tickets yet again face. But in this case, it’s much more than $1. Naturally, you begin calculating what you could save if you sold your own home. You wonder: Is taking on the Realtor’s® job all that difficult and time consuming? Would it be worth it?

As a Realtor®, I’ve heard stories of how a For Sale By Owner transaction went wrong and read court cases of the mishaps surrounding For Sale By Owner transactions. This is information though, that people not in my industry would not come by readily. Below are reasons why you should use a good real estate agent who sells homes for a living rather than dive into the largest financial transaction you’ll ever complete on your own. In the interest of brevity I will give you four reasons not to go the For Sale By Owner route today and post another four next week.

 

A For Sale By Owners sell for less money than those with a Realtor.Moscow Idaho real estate money saved

The National Association of Realtors®’s 2016 statistics on the mean home sale price for agent-assisted homes was $245,000 while for Sale By Owner mean home sale price was $185,000. Bear with me a moment here while I do some basic math. The national average Realtors® commission sits between 5%-7%. So, for example’s sake, let’s say the commission is 6% (split 4 ways between the selling and listing agents’ offices). A sale price of $245,000 would mean a deduction of $14,700 for commission which would leave a seller with $230,300, well above the $185,000 price tag the For Sale By Owners could achieve. Don’t forget the For Sale By Owner still doing months of unfamiliar real estate work to sell their home at that lower price tag.

Realtor® listed homes generally sell higher than For Sale By Owner homes for many decades now and is a testament to the difference it makes to hire a Realtor® who makes a career out of learning and knowing the real estate market and how to attain the best price possible.

Some home owners miss the “golden time” and with it, the best possible price for their home

moscow idaho real estate

Gee, I wonder why all my windows of opportunity are never open?! Attribution: By GTIkitty (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This point delves deeper into the sale price difference listed above. The “golden time” is the window starting the date of listing the home on the market to two weeks later. During this window is the time when your home is new and fresh to agents and buyers alike who are looking for a home and haven’t found one yet. If the home is priced right, offers will come inside that window, and those offers represent what is the best and highest possible price that can be achieved for that home at that time on the market. Overpriced homes field little to no action from buyers during that window, and after a home has sat idle on the market for months, buyers and their agents, begin to wonder what’s wrong with it and will bring low ball offers to the table, sometimes well below what the home is really worth.

 

 

Who’s saving money, the sellers or the buyersBased on No Attrib req images my image

So, an often overlooked factor in going the For Sale By Owner road is who will save money avoiding the Realtors’® commission-the sellers or the buyers. While For Sale By Owners choose selling on their own to save money, they sometimes don’t take into account the buyers’ perspective. Buyers can have a Realtor® do all the work for them and after all is said and done, their Realtor® is paid by the sellers. So why would they choose to do the work themselves in lieu of a professional? They expect to pay less for the home. Let’s revisit that math I did earlier. $14,700 would be a number of importance not to just the sellers but to the buyers too. If they are going to attempt completing one of the largest transactions of their lifetime solo, they would desire incentive to do it, like paying $14,700 less. Buyers may not feel $7,350 is enticing enough to bravely go where few will and navigate the lengthy contract’s clauses and contingencies, especially when their other option is for someone else, a professional who knows the contract well, will do it for them and at no cost to them.

Of all homes sold, very few are by For Sale by Owners

from Pixabay man bathroom toilet, modified moscow idahoOf all home sales, in 2016 only 8% are For Sale By Owner. This number consistently remains low and has shrunk over the decades from the highest at 19% in the 80’s. Couple this with another stat-90% of home owners that started as For Sale By Owners end up handing it over to a Realtor®. I think these two numbers speak for themselves and are reason to skip this plan, hang onto that golden timeframe, and let a professional market your home for you. But, just in case this was not enough to push convince you that For Sale By Owner isn’t a good plan, I will post four more good reasons why not to next Sunday.

Shannon May realtor Moscow Idaho

217 S. Main St., Moscow
O: 208.882.0800
C: 208.892.9256

Is replacing that old front door worth its price tag? A recent study on home remodel/replacement jobs says yes.

Hendrix Rd Moscow, Idaho

local property that has wonderful curb appeal and has features mentioned below

Like others, I’ve been known to get sucked into watching a marathon of one of those HGTV shows that at the end totes some pretty profit numbers, showcasing how a couple made more money after investing in some remodeling in their home before listing it. While I love seeing the morphing of a neglected home into a bright, efficient and fun new abode, I’ve doubted the reality behind those green numbers (this is worthy of another blog, another day). The question I aim to answer today is where reality about profits after renos sits, specifically for our area. We can look at national numbers on the actual return on such investments, which is fun, but that won’t really tell us what is likely for us here in Moscow given our supply and demand of homes and our cost of remodeling or replacements is not typical of small town America.

Lucky us, a magazine named Remodeling has posted a recent study based on the 29 most common remodels/replacements that shows us both the national numbers and what we can expect for our region. Unfortunately, I do not have permission to post the actual numbers but I can give you the basic rundown.

If you’d like to see those numbers in detail, though, go to this link. The study is a free downloadable and will give you numbers nationally as well as regionally. When/If you read the study, you will likely notice our region is associated with Boise. A natural question to come to mind is how does Moscow’s market relate to Boise. As a local agent, I have noticed how Moscow’s real estate market acts more like a coastal market with higher demand and lower supply. This will mean our return on investment will likely be equal to higher than what you see posted in the study for Boise. The one variable that can count against us is cost of materials. Being somewhat out of the way, materials can run higher for us than in more populated areas where interstate highways intersect.

The lowdown on what rehabs pay good dividends…

There is more money to be made back in exterior upgrades than in interior. For instance, both on the national level and even more so for our region, replacing the front door with a nice, updated version will bring you more than 100% of return for your money. Another outdoor update with great return is adding a stone veneer to the house. These veneers have come a long way, imitating the real thing for less and can fetch a nice return on your money, more so regionally than nationally. Another outdoor feature you may consider replacing is the garage door. This one can bring a nice return on high-end homes.

Now the interior is not to be left behind as there were numbers to note here. One was choosing a good, current paint color (this year specifically being the new color of gray dubbed greige, a gray/beige color). You’ve read my thoughts on what paint can do for a home, so I will not drone on about it here. Another is overhead–the attic insulation. Upgrade it and you may see more than 100% return on your money. One more is upgrading the windows to double pane, energy efficient windows will bring your dollars back to you at a nice rate.

Some more general rules of thumb the study pointed out:

  • Big projects with big price tags generally don’t pay off. (Sorry HGTV. Our suspicions are proven true here.)
  • Conversely, smaller projects that cost less tend to be more likely to pay off.
  • A big remodel that speaks to specific a style you may have taken to cannot be guaranteed to appeal to all buyers. And, as mentioned in the above point, this would automatically be a big project which will shrink the odds of you seeing that money come back.
  • You may have already noticed, but in case you didn’t-replacements win over remodels when it comes to return on your dollar.

Of course, when you are not planning on moving anytime soon, then what likely matters more than the rate of return on your remodeling expenses is how the update makes you smile. . . and doesn’t drain your wallet of all ya got, naturally. But if you think you may move in the next five years, looking into some of these replacements and updates can help you fetch a better price for your home when you list it. Who wouldn’t smile at getting more for their home thanks to some replaced 80’s features?

Shannon May realtor Moscow Idaho

217 S. Main St., Moscow
O: 208.882.0800
C: 208.892.9256

Idaho Realtors® February News

I have another blog planned for early next week that I will post geared for those who have a home they don’t intend to leave but thought this newsletter was also something worth reading for those who are in the market to buy or sell this year. Enjoy!

real estate articles moscow, idaho

Article about why buying now is better than staying on the sidelines

Winter Checklist

landscape-nature-forest-snow-winter-architecture-545042-pxhere.comNow that the holidays have passed us by and I am sitting, snug in bundles of fleece and thermals, in front of a large window, watching snow drift down and settle over roughly two feet of snow and musing the long icicles hanging from the gutter out another window, I realized I should have blogged about good winterizing moves that can help you better care for your home and your energy bills.

A few simple moves can protect your home from winter damage and also improve your energy bills that are prone to rocketing into orbit every December, January and February and on occasional winters, for a few more months. Below are some ideas on how to winterize your home, some of which you can still readily do. I will list them in order of what to do ahead of weather for future reference next year come September.landscape-nature-forest-mountain-snow-winter-1193085-pxhere.com

  • Clean your gutters to avoid clogged gutters. Those gutters will suffer enough with snow and ice build up so don’t test fate by challenging that snow and ice’s ability to pass through the gutter down to the ground below.)
  • Disconnect all outdoor hoses and turn off the water to avoid burst pipes come spring. Along a similar note here I was once misinformed that there is a city ordinance that requires Moscowvites to back flush our sprinkler system professionally. This is not true; however, it is also not costly.
  • Buy a good snow shovel and meet that chore as another way to get activity during those winter months. Let it slide and either you or family/friends might take a costly spill.
  • Close vents to areas of the house not commonly used.
  • replace the filter in your furnace.
  • This one can qualify more as a safety precaution guarding against fire, but also works for improving energy bills: if moving your dryer does not feel similar to someone suggesting a trip up Mt. Everest, then move it out to vacuum built-up lint.
  • Caulk or purchase weather stripping to apply to drafty, problem areas. The one place a home loses the most heat is through windows, and given Moscow’s many historic homes, it is worth noting the difference some fresh caulk can make. Come spring, if you live in one of those older homes, it may be really worth the price tag to replace those windows with double paned, energy efficient windows which leads me to the last suggestion…
  • Contact Avista to schedule an energy audit. For free, they will assess your home and offer suggestions to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Some improves, replacing older items with energy efficient ones will fetch you not only a lower heating bill but an energy rebate with Avista. The link provided will also provide more ideas from Avista on ways to improve your energy bill.

Anyhow, hope this helps. I will aim to post a spring checklist in a couple months.

Fed rate hike & what that means for home buyers

Hello all!

I dropped off the scene for a bit-by-product of teaching a course at the University of Idaho, but alas, I am done now and can devote all my time to real estate and my website.8107774987_5de2bd7d2d_b flickr Fed Rate hike moscow id real estate

Which brings me to today’s post. The Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, announced that the Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to raise the short term, federal funds interest rate by a quarter percentage point, explaining that maximum employment and price stability are signs of a robust economy. Furthermore, the committee intends to continue with gradual point hikes, aiming for 2 percentage points (currently as of today the fed fund rate is .5o percent) over two years, the goal being to hold a neutral position and 2 percent inflation. The committee plans for the fed funds rate to reach 1.4 percent by the end of 2017, 2.1 percent by the end of 2018 and 2.9 percent by the end of 2019. After throwing out those numbers, she buffered them with a disclaimer- that future economic policy could impact their rate hike plans and, in general, the economy is highly unpredictable, so they are prepared to adjust these rate hikes as the economic factors warrant.

Okay, enough of the geek talk Shannon; just give it to me straight. What does this mean if I am looking to buy or sell a house?

Well, most financial analysts agree that the current hike is, so-to-speak, baked into the cake already. Banks knew this was coming and planned for passing along the costs to their customers, so they have already raised rates in anticipation of today’s fed funds rate hike. The average rate available for a 30-year fixed mortgage rate has gone up since October from 3.5 percent to 4.15 percent and as a result, will not go up this week more than say what you could have gotten last week. Last October, you would have paid $75 less for a monthly mortgage on a $200,000 home than today which is not grounds for most people to throw in the towel and say rentals, apartments, and landlords-oh yay! At the moment, the rate hike won’t impact the housing market too much. Buyers will still be trolling online property sites and sellers listing their homes on those sites.

That said, I’d suggest not forgetting Janet Yellen’s long-term plan of gradual increases with the aim to reach 1.4 by the end of 2017. If Federal Open Market Committee keeps to their goals, banks will likely be proactive and raise their rates in anticipation of those little .25 percent rate hikes that’ll happen to get us from .50 percent up to 1.4 percent. If these happen as planned, that $75 dollar increase on the $200,000 home, will gradually turn into a $300 increase, and that folks, will impact the housing market. How cannot be exactly pinned down as markets around the country vary, but I suspect in Moscow buyers will buck up for the first .50 percent hikes and continue to make offers close to asking price but as the rates continue up and there are still a lot of buyers in the sidelines looking for homes in our little town, those offers will start to come in lower and not at asking price.

In other markets, this will likely impact the number of sellers selling, meaning less will go on the market knowing they cannot get the price they’d hoped for, but Moscow is unique in more than it having good diverse cuisine, beer and wine. It is a small college town bordered by another small college town which translates into consistent real estate movement, university new comers moving in and university peeps bound for another college. I won’t be so fool-hardy to make a real estate prediction here. I’ve seen many economists far more knowledgeable than myself play that game and lose. I’ll just leave it at don’t mistakenly equate Moscow’s population with small town real estate. Moscow’s real estate market doesn’t act like a small town now, and unless the two universities and Schweitzer kill over in a few months, it certainly won’t in a year or two after multiple rate hikes.

Sources:

 

Exactly how much impact interest rates have on your monthly housing payments

Today, I am keeping it short and sweet. I wanted to shed one ray of light on the subject of interest rates rising in the next year. Fairly much, everyone out there who watches the news or reads it in some form digitally knows that interest rates are still really low yet are destined to rise in our near future, starting some time after the new year. What I thought that I could add here is a chart I came across that gives a better idea of what impact that may have on your future purchasing power.

I shared in a previous blog post that with each point the interest rate goes up, buyers lose about 6% in their buying power. For argument’s sake, let’s say you were aiming to buy a $300,000 home. You’d played your cards right and gotten that pre-approval letter first before shopping for a home; you know exactly what your family can afford in monthly housing costs which is a $300,000 home, but oh wait! The rate has gone up which means that $300,000 house you two fell in love with will now cost too much in principle and interest each month. The solution is to drop thee ceiling of what you can afford by 6%. Instead of being able to afford a $300,000 home, your family needs to lower the ceiling to $282,000.

Luckily, the Federal Reserve is not a fan of sabotaging our country with whole point rate hikes, so the above picture is more accurate for a long term change. The rates are likely to go up, yes, but by quarter percents, not whole points. If you and your family are toying with the idea of buying in the future, say in 3 years then this post is a wake up call because our rates will be up no telling how much higher in 3 years. The rest of us can appreciate the chart I found and posted below. It shows you a national average priced home, $250,000, and assumes an aim of monthly costs no higher than $1,100. You can see how raising the rate by a quarter percent impacts the combined principle and interest payments.

Buyers Purchasing Power moscow id real estate

Past this  chart, I’d only add that if you plan to buy in the near future, say 6-9 months, it would be wise to meet with a lender and get pre-approved, and more importantly, lock in a rate. Yes, that is possible and with some lenders, for no fee. Now there is a limit to how long the lock will last, but I would not fret that. When/if the locked rate expires, just lock it in again. Doing so will likely secure a lower rate for you during the time you are house shopping, and if it doesn’t, well you were safe and not sorry.  🙂