A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a promise from the lender to freeze a specific interest rate and a certain number of points for you for a certain period during your application process. This means your interest rate will not rise as you are going through the application process.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, between fifteen to sixty days, with the longer ones generally costing more. You can get a longer period for your lock, but in doing so, will most likely have a higher rate than you would with a shorter period
In addition to choosing a shorter lock period, there are several ways you are able to score the best rate. A larger down payment will result in a lower interest rate, since you are starting out with more equity. You may opt to pay points to improve your interest rate for the loan term, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that makes financial sense for some is to pay points to bring the rate down over the life of the loan. You will pay more up front, but you will save money, especially if you keep the loan for a long time.
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