A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to hold a certain interest rate and a certain number of points for you for a specified period during your application process. This ensures that your interest rate won't rise during the application process.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from 15 to 60 days, with the longer period usually costing more. A lending institution may agree to hold an interest rate and points for a longer period, such as sixty days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be higher than that of a rate lock of a shorter period.
In addition to choosing a shorter rate lock period, there are more ways you can get the lowest rate. The bigger the down payment, the better your interest rate will be, because you will be entering the loan with more equity. You may opt to pay points to reduce your interest rate over the loan term, meaning you pay more up front. For many people, this is a good option..
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