A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to hold a specific interest rate and a specific number of points for you for a certain period during your application process. This means your interest rate will not grow during the application process.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from fifteen to sixty days, with the longer spans typically costing more. A lending institution may agree to freeze an interest rate and points for a longer span of time, like 60 days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be more than that of a rate lock of fewer days.
In addition to going with a shorter lock period, there are several ways you may be able to get the lowest rate. A larger down payment will result in a better interest rate, since you'll have a good amount of equity from the beginning. You can pay points to bring down your interest rate for the term of the loan, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that makes financial sense for many people is to pay points to reduce the rate over the life of the loan. You will pay more up front, but you will come out ahead in the end.
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