An agent will help you and guide you through the house searching process,He/she will search , preview, and show you homes that meet your needs and wants, as well as your means. He/she will negotiate and be your advocate throughout the process.
so , take the plunge, get an agent!!!
By the way, I am a Weichert agent, very familiar with the Plainfield area
I have lived in Union County for almost 40 years, and I worked in Plainfield for over 30 years! So , give me a call or send me a message
cell phone 908-403-8383
Rate locks are for specified time frames, 15, 30, 45, 60 days and so on. The longer you lock for the higher the rate or fee. It's generally best not to lock a rate until you have an offer accepted and your inspection issues resolved.
You are doing the right thing by getting pre-approved early. Once you know for certain how much you qualify for, what programs are available you'll be in position to shop. Your lender may have some good suggestions for a Realtor, but you should talk to more than one to decide who you want to work with. A good agent will be invaluable in helping you through all the process and putting your interests first. Some agents are better than others, you'll want one who likes working with first time buyers and who is patient to answer all of your questions. Best of luck.