When you are promised a "rate lock" from the lender, it means that you are guaranteed to get a specific interest rate for a determined period for your application process. This prevents you from working through your whole application process and learning at the end that your interest rate has gone up.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, between fifteen to sixty days, with the longer period typically costing more. A lending institution may agree to freeze an interest rate and points for a longer period, say 60 days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be more than that of a rate lock of a shorter period.
There are other ways to get a better rate, besides going with a shorter rate lock period. The more the down payment, the better the rate will be, since you will be entering the loan with more equity. You could choose to pay points to reduce your rate for the life of the loan, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that makes financial sense for many people is to pay points to reduce the interest rate over the term of the loan. You will pay more initially, but you'll save money, especially if you don't refinance early.
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