When you are promised a "rate lock" from the lender, it means that you are guaranteed to keep a particular interest rate over a determined period while you work on the application process. This means your interest rate cannot grow during the application process.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, between 15 to 60 days, with the longer spans usually costing more. A lender will agree to lock in 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 with a rate lock of a shorter period.
In addition to choosing the shorter lock period, there are more ways you can score the lowest rate. A larger down payment will result in a better interest rate, since you'll have more equity at the start. You can pay points to reduce your rate over the loan term, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that is a good option for many people is to pay points to improve the rate over the term of the loan. You pay more up front, but you will save money in the end.
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