What Does “Marry the House, Date the Rate” Mean in Real Estate?

As a potential homebuyer who has spent some time browsing real estate sites or working with agents, you may have come across the common phrase “marry the house, date the rate.” This phrase is usually used to emphasize the importance of prioritizing the unique features of a home over the interest rate on the mortgage loan that will help you purchase it. Essentially, the phrase suggests that you should focus on finding a home that meets your specific needs and preferences, even if it means accepting a higher interest rate, because you’ll likely be living in the house for a long time. 

On the other hand, the phrase advises you to treat the interest rate as a secondary consideration, like a casual relationship, because it will only last for the duration of the loan term. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage you to prioritize finding the right home and making a long-term commitment to it, rather than prioritizing a lower interest rate that may be available for a limited time.

The Core Concept

“Marry the house, date the rate” refers to prioritizing finding the right home for your needs rather than getting distracted by interest rates that will fluctuate over time. The key takeaway is:

  • Focus first on the home/location/features that best suit your lifestyle and budget
  • Interest rates change often, so don’t let current rate trends deter your home search

Essentially, you wouldn’t let interest rate shifts stop you from marrying your dream partner, right? The same concept applies to making one of the most important and expensive purchases of your life.

Why is This Phrase Used?

Why is This Phrase Used?

This pithy phrase has become popular among real estate professionals because it captures the right mindset homebuyers should have.

Rates Are Out of Your Control

While you can control which houses you view and ultimately purchase, you cannot predict or change interest rate movements. Rates have always shifted up and down over decades and economic cycles.

So why obsess over something you can’t change when it could prevent you from getting the perfect home?

Your Needs Should Drive Your Search

Every homebuyer has a unique lifestyle and list of needs/wants that will make certain houses better fits than others. Figuring out your must-haves, dealbreakers, and areas you’re willing to compromise is step one.

For instance, if you know you really want a large yard for your dogs, prioritize that in your search over monitoring rate changes. You can refinance for better rates later, but you can’t change a home’s yard size.

You Can Refinance, But Not Easily Change Homes

Additionally, once you purchase a home, it’s quite difficult to switch properties if you have regrets or changing needs. You’d have to sell, take on hefty fees, and go through the stressful homebuying process all over again.

Meanwhile, if mortgage rates decrease after you buy and secure financing, you always have the option to refinance for lower rates. This flexibility in the future makes fixating on current rate trends unnecessary.

Common Misconceptions Around This Phrase

While “marry the house” makes intuitive sense to most people, some misconceptions crop up around what it means:

  • “You should ignore interest rates completely” – You should still consider rates as one factor in budgeting and determining price range. But don’t let small shifts deter or rush your home search.
  • “You should buy any house you fall in love with regardless of price or monthly payment” – You still need to buy a house affordable for your budget to avoid dangerous overborrowing. But within your price parameters, prioritize finding a home meeting your needs instead of chasing lower rates.
  • “Mortgages and interest rates don’t matter at all” – Obviously mortgages and rates impact affordability and should be explored. This phrase is more about framing mindset so reactive rate watching doesn’t negatively impact your process.

Why Rushing a Home Purchase to “Lock a Rate” is Risky

Sometimes homebuyers panic that interest rates are rising rapidly, so they rush into a purchase just to lock down a lower rate. This knee-jerk reaction can spark regrets down the road for several reasons:

1. Give Yourself Time for “Right House” Clarity

House-hunting is an emotional rollercoaster until suddenly…you know you’ve found “the one.” But this home becomes apparent after viewing multiple options instead of the first house that seems nice.

If you rush into an offer, you may second guess later if it meets all your needs or if something better might still be out there. Give yourself adequate time to view homes until you get that “just feels right” feeling.

2. Thoroughly Inspect Before Committing

In the mad dash to lock a rate before it rises further, you may not leaving enough time for inspections that turn up expensive problems. What if there’s mold under the floors you’re now stuck paying $20k to remediate?

Make sure any offer gives you proper time for professional assessments before legally committing. Don’t let rate lock deadlines pressure you into waiving contingency clauses.

3. Ensure the Numbers Work Long Term

When anxious to snag lower rates, you might stretch your budget too thin. But what happens when rising inflation makes everything from groceries to gas more expensive for years to come?

Crunch the numbers carefully and make sure you not only qualify for the mortgage initially, but that payments still fit comfortably in your budget for the long haul.

4. Fall in Love With Area As Well As Home

People often overlook thoroughly researching the surrounding neighborhood and community before buying due to rate pressures. But a few months after moving in, annoying realities might sink in about the location.

Maybe the shape of the house is perfect, but you discover the school district is subpar. Or endless highway construction noise disrupts your mornings. Give yourself time to visit areas at varied days/hours to feel them out before committing long term.

At the end of the day, interest rates are just one piece of the puzzle when finding your ideal home for the long term. While mortgage rates do impact affordability, you also deserve to feel excited about and comfortable in the property and area as well. Don’t let friends panicking over rate shifts rush your process.

Take your time exploring all options until you find “the one” that checks all your boxes. That way you’ll have no regrets in either direction. Mortgage rates might rise and fall in cycles, but your needs and lifestyle remain more constant. So focus on those first rather than getting distracted by changing rates.

Tips For “Marrying the House” First In Your Home Search

If you embrace this “marry the house” mindset but aren’t sure how to apply it practically in your search process, here are some top tips:

Make a Must-Have List

Don’t just vaguely look at homes and wait for one to emotionally “wow” you. Sit down and make a tangible list of your absolute must-haves (square footage, yard, garage, etc), nice-to-have features, and total dealbreakers. This keeps you focused only on options that fit your needs.

Get Pre-Approved First

Before setting foot into open houses, get pre-qualified or even better pre-approved for a mortgage. This gives you an accurate budget range so you don’t fall in love with homes way outside what you can realistically afford and qualify for no matter the rates.

Attend Open Houses Strategically

Don’t just attend open houses randomly because they’re convenient. Plot out which neighborhoods and home types (ranch, colonial, etc) could best match your list and intentionally visit those first. Going in with clear intent makes it easier to identify “the one”.

Envision Yourself Living There

As you tour homes, picture yourself actually living there full time. Can you see your furniture fitting the space? Your kids playing happily in the yard? Your cars parked in the garage? Envisioning daily life helps you gauge if it feels like home.

Meticulously Assess Condition

Don’t let emotions cloud judgement over or minimize issues observable with the house itself. Carefully go room to room and inspect floors, walls, fixtures, appliances etc. Make thorough notes so you know what you might be getting into from a repair perspective.

Ask About Potential Changes

If you love a home but think “if only the kitchen was open concept…” ask your realtor if changes like knocking down walls are feasible. Some layout tweaks can make a world of difference in livability.

Why Interest Rates Shouldn’t Hold Your Home Search Hostage

As established so far, prioritizing emotional fit, lifestyle needs, and budget over interest rate trends is key in homebuying. But why is letting rate shifts dictate your timeline and search scope so risky in the first place?

Rates Are Impossible to Accurately Predict Long Term

Experts can guess if rates seem generally on an uphill or downhill slope in coming months. But no one, even economist specialists, can say with certainty where floating mortgage rates will land in the years during which you’ll pay back a 30-year home loan.

Too many global factors from inflation to employment rates to supply chain ripples impact lending markets. So obsessing over short term rate changes is pointless when no one knows where they’ll end up long term anyway. You might rush to buy avoiding impending rate hikes that reverse course in 6 months.

Monthly Payment Isn’t All That Changes with Rates

Yes, locking lower rates reduce the total interest paid over a mortgage term to keep payments lower. But rates dropping or rising slightly doesn’t make a home radically more or less affordable by monthly payment alone.

As rates rise, home prices may adjust downward accordingly over months so buyers can still afford similar monthly payments. Higher rate offers might expect bigger down payments as well.

So constantly monitoring rate changes rarely gives an accurate picture of true affordability. Don’t let friends freaking out over a 0.5% rate jump scare you. Look at current home prices and total purchase power.

Preapprovals Buffer You From Rapid Changes

If you’re anxious rising rates during your home search might price you out, get preapproved instead of prequalified. Preapprovals guarantee you a specific rate for 60-90 days typically.

So if you have an offer accepted on a home within that window, you lock your rate in despite market movements in the meantime. This prevents you from getting priced out mid-search.

The preapproval letter also shows sellers you’re qualified and ready to move quickly. So don’t panic if rates rise or fall a bit during your process if already preapproved.

Alternate Mortgage Types Offer Stability

Outside of typical fixed 30-year mortgages tied to fluctuating market rates, some home loan options can protect you from rising rates if that’s a top concern.

For example, ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) offer very low fixed rates for the first 5-7 years so payments stay steady. Or try government-backed VA, USDA or FHA loans upholding consistent rate caps as market rates change.

If protection from unpredictable rate jumps matters most, explore alternate mortgage avenues rather than letting market shifts rush your timeline before you find the perfect house.

How to Handle “The One” Appearing After Locking a Rate

How to Handle “The One” Appearing After Locking a Rate

Okay, so clearly “marry the house, date the rate” suggests you focus on getting the home of your dreams first before worrying about rate locks and timing.

But what if the reverse happens and you proactively lock a great rate, feeling ready to finalize a purchase…then suddenly find your absolute dream home after the fact?

This can spark quite the financial dilemma, especially if market rates have risen substantially since you locked your rate on the previous home. Do you:

  • Stick with the original house and loan to keep the lower rate?
  • Bail on the initial house and purchase “the one” at higher rates?
  • Attempt awkward negotiations asking sellers to extend the rate lock period?
  • Forget the whole homeownership thing and just rent forever to avoid tough decisions? (Maybe).

While frustrating, don’t panic in this scenario. You have options, especially if you proactively discussed contingencies like rate lock extensions and floating down rates with your lender upfront.

Here are some potential routes to explore if the house of your dreams appears after locking rates on another home:

See If Sellers Will Grant Rate Lock Extension

First, assess if extending your current rate lock by 7-30 days is possible. Rate locks typically range from 45-90 days at first. If you built in extension contingencies with your lender when setting the lock, formally asking sellers for more time could allow you to move forward with the new house at the old rate.

Note extension fees apply, but might be worth securing your dream home!

Ask Lender About “Float Down” Options

Alternatively, float down agreements let you lock a rate then relock at a lower rate if market rates drop again before closing. So if the second home is at higher prevailing rates, a float down could still let you capitalize on the initial locked rate if it happens to dip in the meantime.

Weigh Paying Higher Rates on the New Home

Crunch the numbers to see if purchasing the newly found “perfect home” at slightly higher rates fits your budget reasonably with savings, higher income contributions etc.

While not ideal, you might decide it’s worth paying an extra $100-200 per month if you plan on living there for decades and now found your absolute ideal home suited to your lifestyle long term.

Walk Away from Original House Without Penalties

If still within inspection and due diligence periods, you can typically back out of a signed purchase agreement without financial penalties if you decided the new home is ultimately “the one” worth paying higher rates for.

Just be thoughtful here – don’t back out last minute over superficial reasons and derail closing processes for all parties counting on the sale. Make sure buying the alternate home instead is in your best interest long term.

The takeaway if facing this decision crossroads? Don’t panic! Carefully assess all options with your real estate agent and lender before deciding between sticking with the first house or moving forward to buy the second home.

While deviating from “locking the house first” causes some headaches, finding your dream home could still make higher rates or asking sellers for extensions worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much do rates even impact monthly payments?

As a simplified example: On a $300,000 home loan, a 2% rate over 30 years equates to roughly $1,250 a month while a 7% rate translates to around $1,700 monthly. So while rates impact costs, small fluctuations won’t necessarily change overall affordability drastically in either direction when pricing homes.

  1. Should I buy now or wait if I expect rates will drop again?

Timing rate cycles is impossible and constantly waiting for the “best” window could mean never buying at all. Instead, move forward when you find a home truly suiting your needs and fitting current budget limitations – regardless if future rates rise or fall. Time in the home usually wins out.

3 In a hot market, isn’t locking a rate quickly crucial to compete?

Not if it causes you to waive contingencies or overlook inspecting issues with the home that could cost far more long term than a slightly higher rate would in extra monthly payments. Avoid rash moves just to beat competition. Losing your dream home is better than buying the wrong home.

  1. If I lock a rate then rates drop, can I get the lower rate later?

Yes! You have options like a one-time float down to relock at lower rates if the market shifts favorably before closing. So don’t worry about future dips – focus on if the rate works now for the house you picked. Refinancing when owning the home can also capture better rates later.

  1. What are alternatives to traditional fixed rate mortgages?

Beyond predictable fixed loans, ARM loans lock super low rates for intro periods of 5-7 years while FHA, VA and USDA loans uphold steadier rate caps protecting you from volatile rate jumps. Explore options if the open market uncertainty stresses you out!

In Closing

Finding and securing the perfect home for your needs and budget should take priority over getting distracted by interest rate changes at the moment. While mortgage rates impact costs, your lifestyle determines if a home truly fits rather than small rate fluctuations.

Trust this process – get preapproved, make a wish list, attend open houses strategically, ask about changes, envision daily life, and don’t panic over rates. hostage. Stick to your search until finding “the one” then determine if current rates fit into your budget or if alternatives like ARMs better suit your priorities.

The takeaway? Marry the house first, then date the rate. Discover the power of video marketing in the realm of real estate as a tool for showcasing the essence of finding your dream home, emphasizing that functionality matters more than the ever-changing market rates; by focusing on the former, the latter naturally falls into place, guiding potential buyers toward their new home sweet home.

News Reporter
Mark Buckingham grew up in a Plumbing and HVAC family business. Mark has over 21 years of professional internet marketing and SEO experience (in results). He’s a leading expert in helping Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical businesses get to the top of Google, boost leads, get more customers and grow their company. As the founder of Skyrocket Results SEO, he's on a mission to help HVAC contractors, Plumbers and Electricians avert internet marketing mistakes, avoid wasted marketing dollars, increase profits and build wealth. His free Plumbing, HVAC and electrical company marketing blog is: www.SkyrocketResultsseo.com/blog

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