A rate "lock" or "commitment" is a promise from the lender to lock in a particular interest rate and a particular number of points for you for a certain period of time while your application is processed. This keeps you from working through your whole application process and finding out at the end that the interest rate has risen higher.
While there can be a choice of rate lock periods (from 15 to 60 days), the longer spans are generally more expensive. The lending institution will agree to lock in an interest rate and points for a longer period, like 60 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 going with the shorter lock period, there are more ways you can get the best rate. A larger down payment will give you a reduced interest rate, because you will have more equity at the start. You can pay points to lower your rate over the loan term, meaning you pay more initially. One strategy that is a good option for many people is to pay points to bring the rate down over the life of the loan. You pay more up front, but you'll save money in the long run.
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