A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to set a specific interest rate and a certain number of points for you for a certain period during your application process. This means your interest rate won't grow as you are working through the application process.
Rate lock periods can be various lengths of time, anywhere from fifteen to sixty days, with the longer period typically costing more. The lending institution can agree to lock in an interest rate and points for a longer period, such as 60 days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be more than with a rate lock of fewer days.
There are other ways to get a better rate, besides choosing a shorter rate lock period. A bigger down payment will result in a lower interest rate, because you will have more equity from the beginning. You can pay points to lower your interest rate over the term of the loan, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that is a good option for many people is to pay points to bring the rate down over the life of the loan. You'll pay more initially, but you will come out ahead in the long run.
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