A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a promise from the lender to freeze a particular interest rate and a specific number of points for you for a certain period during your application process. This ensures that your interest rate can't go up during the application process.
Rate lock periods can be various lengths of time, between 15 to 60 days, with the longer period usually costing more. A lending institution can agree to freeze an interest rate and points for a longer span of time, say sixty days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be higher than that of a rate lock of fewer days.
There are more ways to get a better rate, besides agreeing to a shorter rate lock period. A larger down payment will get you a better interest rate, because you'll be starting out with more equity. You can pay points to reduce your interest rate for the life of the loan, meaning you pay more initially. One strategy that is a good option for many people is to pay points to reduce the rate over the term of the loan. You will pay more initially, but you will save money in the end.
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