A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a lender's promise to lock in a certain interest rate and a specific number of points for you for a specified period of time while your application is processed. This protects you from getting through your whole application process and finding out at the end that your interest rate has gotten higher.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from 15 to 60 days, with the longer ones typically costing more. A lender can agree to freeze an interest rate and points for a longer span of time, such as 60 days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be more than that of a rate lock of fewer days.
There are other ways to get a better rate, in addition to choosing a shorter rate lock period. The bigger down payment you can make, the lower your rate will be, as you will be entering the loan with more equity. You can pay points to bring down your rate for the term of the loan, meaning you pay more up front. To a lot of people, this is a good option..
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