Buying Advice

Lock It In!

Like your REALTOR®, a knowledgeable lender is crucial. Not all are created equally and not all offer the same loan products. For instance, not all lenders offer government-backed loans such as USDA (zero down outside Hilo), VA (zero down for Veterans in most neighborhoods), and FHA (3.5% down in most neighborhoods). Trouble is, lenders push their products and don’t always share that a better loan product might be available.

Understanding Interest Rate Locks

Your lender should also explain how an interest rate lock in a volatile interest environment might help. Locking your interest rate buys insurance against rising rates. Rate locks are normally good for 45 days although some lenders offer longer periods. We generally assume a loan will take at least 45 days but, truth is, 60 days is common. Lenders do not have control over the amount of time an appraisal (or underwriting for that matter) will take so it’s good to allow additional time for loan completion.

Exploring Rate Options

Rate locks are not typically free. There is also a charge to extend the lock. Today’s interest rates have been trending down so be sure to ask your lender if you can “float the rate” which means if the rate decreases, your lock goes down, and yes, these probably cost a bit more. If all else fails, it is also possible to lock your rate and cancel and re-lock at a lower rate. It never hurts to ask if there’s a no-fee option or if a lender-paid lock is available. A great loan officer can recommend the best strategy for you.


Another layer of rate manipulation can be added by doing a buy-down which will reduce your initial rate for a few years. You’d still need to qualify at the current rate but the reduction keeps money in your pocket and helps you ease into a future payment. These can be paid in a few different ways but asking the seller to pay is a common strategy. Besides, this actually nets the seller more money than constant price reductions. We just closed a home with a buy-down along with seller-paid closing costs. What a score for the buyer!

The Role of Your Real Estate Agent

But it all starts with your real estate agent who must understand how to structure your contract and who can recommend a great lender to add to your buying team.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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Frank Rodrigues

March 26, 2024

Jus texted personally with a question about your listing!! Please get back to me as soon as possible!!

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