A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to set a particular interest rate and a particular number of points for you for a specified period of time while your application is processed. This protects you from going through your whole application process and discovering at the end that your interest rate has risen higher.
Rate lock periods can be various lengths of time, between fifteen to sixty days, with the longer spans typically costing more. A lending institution will agree to lock in an interest rate and points for a longer period, like sixty days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be higher than with a rate lock of fewer days.
There are more ways to get a good rate, besides agreeing to a shorter rate lock period. A larger down payment will get you a better interest rate, because you will have more equity at the start. You may choose to pay points to reduce your rate for the life of the loan, meaning you pay more initially. One strategy that makes financial sense for many people is to pay points to bring the rate down over the term of the loan. You are paying more up front, but you will save money in the end.
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