A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to hold a particular interest rate and a particular number of points for you for a specified period during your application process. This ensures that your interest rate cannot get higher during the application process.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from fifteen to sixty days, with the longer ones usually costing more. A lending institution can agree to hold an interest rate and points for a longer span of time, like sixty days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be higher than that of a rate lock of a shorter period.
There are more ways to get a good rate, in addition to choosing a shorter rate lock period. A larger down payment will result in a reduced interest rate, because you will be starting out with a good deal of equity. You may opt to pay points to lower your interest rate over the loan term, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that is a good option for many people is to pay points to improve the interest rate over the term of the loan. You'll pay more up front, but you will save money, especially if you keep the loan for the full term.
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