When you're promised a "rate lock" from a lender, it means that you are guaranteed to keep a particular interest rate over a certain number of days while you work on the application process. This saves you from going through your whole application process and discovering at the end that the interest rate has gotten higher.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from 15 to 60 days, with the longer period generally costing more. A lending institution may agree to hold an interest rate and points for a longer period, say sixty days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be higher than with a rate lock of fewer days.
There are other ways to get a better rate, in addition to opting for a shorter rate lock period. A bigger down payment will give you a better interest rate, because you are starting out with more equity. You could choose to pay points to bring down your rate for the term of the loan, meaning you pay more up front. One strategy that is a good option for some is to pay points to improve the rate over the term of the loan. You'll pay more initially, but you'll come out ahead, especially if you don't refinance early.
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