SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Lenders have increasingly been scrambling for business from potential homebuyers recently by offering them a guaranteed rate while they shop for a dwelling.

The latest to join the parade is Plaza Home Mortgage Bank, which has introduced a program it calls Protect and Purchase.

Those who prequalify under Plaza's standard underwriting guidelines will be allowed to lock in an interest rate for 30 calendar days while shopping. Once a purchase agreement has been signed, the borrower has another 45 calendar days to close.

The rate lock is available on all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 30-year and 15-year programs, on loans larger than the agency maximum, and for all Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration programs.

Plaza Home Mortgage Bank specializes in the origination, sale and servicing of one-family to four-family residential mortgage loans through its 35 loan origination offices in 13 states and ranks as the nation's 22d-largest residential mortgage loan originator.

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