Many people are blindsided by rising mortgage rates after getting a preapproval, thinking that the preapproval has locked their rate. It hasn’t. The first opportunity to lock your mortgage rate happens when your final loan application is approved, though you don’t even have to lock it until shortly before closing on a purchase, if you think rates will go down. In addition, the lock period is not indefinite. It usually lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 days, and it could definitely take longer than that to find a home.
There are ways to mitigate the issues presented by shifting mortgage rates. Rates don’t tend to change much during a typical closing period, but you want to lock early when rates are rising and late when rates are falling. Consider budgeting for a loan lower than your preapproved amount in order to account for fluctuations in mortgage rates. Different lenders also have different locking policies. Make sure to shop around and ask about lock periods, renewing options for locked rates, and the possibility of locking out rising rates but not falling rates.