A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to lock in a particular interest rate and a particular number of points for you for a certain period of time while your application is processed. This keeps you from getting through your whole application process and discovering at the end that your interest rate has risen higher.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from 15 to 60 days, with the longer spans generally costing more. The lending institution will agree to hold an interest rate and points for a longer span of time, such as sixty days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be more than that of a rate lock of a shorter period.
There are more ways to get a lower rate, besides going with a shorter rate lock period. The larger the down payment, the better your rate will be, because you will be entering the loan with more equity. You can pay points to bring down your interest rate for the loan term, meaning you pay more initially. One strategy that is a good option for some is to pay points to bring the rate down over the term of the loan. You'll pay more initially, but you'll come out ahead, especially if you keep the loan for the full term.
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