One of the more popular questions I am asked recently is "does it cost money to lock your loan?" and the truth is -- there is not a right answer.
The reason there isn't any one answer to this question is because each lender handles loan locks differently. Some lenders lock you early in the process before sending you the initial disclosures and charge a fee that appears to be a "lock fee" but is really a "commitment fee". The normal "commitment fee" is somewhere between $300 and $600 from what I have seen.
The lenders who I have seen charge a "commitment fee" are typically large, national lenders who have call centers and your loan officer is really a call center employee who only locks you in and then lets someone else take over your file once locked.
Some lenders don't charge a fee at all to lock your loan - these are typically traditional mortgage shops where the loan officer is a true outside sales person and is generally a professional who is being a loan officer as a career. Most often, these lenders will have you complete the initial disclosures and then once completed, they will work with you to decide the optimal time for you to lock in at the lowest possible rate.
Typically when you lock - the initial lock period will be for 15, 30 or 45 days. Each lender has different lock possibilities, but these are the general timeframes that lenders offer for locking. Unless your file is already through underwriting, I would caution you about locking for 15 days -- turn times are usually just not short enough for you to get your file done in less time.
IF -- you get to the point where your lock is about to expire, then it is usually possible to extend the lock - at a fee. Who pays the fee -- you or the loan officer? From what I have seen -- usually the loan officer will pay the fee and take it out of his commission - but if the lock is going to expire because you were late getting something needed to complete the loan, be ready for the loan officer to ask you to pay it.
A typical lock extension costs about .25% of your loan for a 15 day extension -- but again, this amount will vary by lender.
So back to the original question: does it cost money to lock a loan? It depends on the lender and yes, it usually costs money to extend the lock on a loan no matter who you are working with.