What Is APR? APR Explained

July 09, 2024
What Is APR? APR Explained

Do you ever feel like interest rates only tell half the story for your clients? There is much more to that story when you look at the Annual Percentage Rate. This single number can reveal the whole picture beyond the base interest rate. So, what is APR? It’s typically a measure that reflects the total transparent yearly cost of borrowing on a mortgage over time. This transparency is critical. Imagine a client comparing lenders. One might advertise a low interest rate, but hidden fees like a high origination charge could make it less attractive. With the APR, they can look beyond the initial numbers and understand the complete financial picture upfront, which is important for both borrowing and investing. It also allows the mortgage broker to effectively compare loan options and guide your clients toward the most cost-effective choice.

By grasping the concept of annual percentage rate, you will become an expert at comparing loan options for your clients. They’ll recognize you as a knowledgeable professional who presents the complete financial picture, not just a single interest rate. This article will provide you with a clear explanation of the APR, how it is calculated, its types, how it differs from other rates, and its importance in financial decisions.

What Is APR?

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The APR, which stands for Annual Percentage Rate, is the sum of the interest rate and all of the lender’s charges, expressed as a percentage on a yearly time frame. Think of it as the true cost of borrowing money. It takes into account not only the base interest rate but also any additional fees associated with the loan. These include origination fees, application charges, and discount points. So instead of piecing together multiple numbers, the APR gives you a clear picture at a glance.

The purpose of the annual percentage rate is to provide a standardized measure of the cost of borrowing. By incorporating all relevant costs into a single standardized metric, the APR offers clarity, allowing borrowers to accurately assess and compare the true cost of borrowing across different loan products. Knowing the APR is like having all the loan details on a single price tag.

It’s the annualization that provides a framework for comparing loans. Expressing the cost as an annual rate eliminates the confusion caused by different loan terms and periods. This makes it easier to see upfront which loan is the better deal.

How Is APR Calculated?

Now it’s important to figure out how to get that number. It’s best to first look at the key components that make up the APR. They are the amount your client is going to borrow (Loan Amount/Loan Principal), the interest rate charged by the lender (Interest Charges), the number of days in the loan term, and any additional fees or costs associated with obtaining the loan (Total Fees). These can include origination fees, discount points, and mortgage insurance.

*Situational fees, like late payment fees, are typically not included in APR calculations.

Once all the ingredients are gathered, we can use the following formula:

APR = ((Interest Charges + Total Fees) / Loan Principal) / (Number of Days in Loan Term) * 365) * 100

For example, let’s say your client has a $100,000 loan with an interest rate of 5%. The origination fee is 1% of the loan amount ($1,000). Let’s assume the loan term is 30 years (approximately 10,950 days). There’s also a $500 mortgage insurance premium.

Here’s how to find the APR for this case:

    1. Total Fees: Add the origination fee and the mortgage insurance: $1,000 (origination fee) + $500 (mortgage insurance) = $1,500.
    2. Convert fees into interest: We can estimate that this fee translates into roughly a 0.15% interest rate.
    3. Calculate the interest expense: Add the interest rate and converted fees: 5% (interest rate) + 0.15% (converted fee) = 5.15%.
    4. Apply the formula: Plug the values into the formula, considering the full loan term (10,950 days):

APR = [(5.15% + $1,500) / $100,000] / (10,950 days) * 365 * 100 ≈ 5.22%

Therefore, based on the estimated fee conversion and the 30-year loan term, the APR would be approximately 5.22%.

To make it easier, you can take advantage of online APR calculators. For example, you can easily calculate your client’s APR by entering the loan amount, finance charges, interest rate, and term using the Experian tool.

Fixed vs. Variable APR

The two most common types of APRs used in mortgage lending are fixed and variable APRs.

As the name implies, the fixed APR remains the same for the entire term of the loan. No matter what happens in the economy, a borrower’s monthly payment remains predictable. This can be a huge advantage if a person dislikes surprises or prefers to budget with certainty. On the other hand, if interest rates are falling, the fixed APR may be slightly higher than the current market rate.

The variable APR is based on a benchmark index, so it can go up or down depending on the market. If interest rates fall, the APR and monthly payment could decrease, saving a borrower money in the long run. The flip side is that if interest rates rise, the APR and monthly payment could also increase, potentially straining the budget.

As a mortgage broker, you can help your clients choose a better option that meets their needs. Since the best choice depends on their circumstances and risk tolerance, consider their financial goals and preferences. If they prefer predictability and stability and hate surprises, a fixed APR may be ideal. If they’re comfortable with some risk and the potential for lower rates, a variable APR might be an option, but they should be prepared for potential increases.

Why It Matters

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Since the APR considers all additional fees and rolls them into a single yearly percentage, it provides the total cost of borrowing each year, making it easier to compare different loan options. By focusing on the APR, borrowers can avoid financial surprises and choose the loan with the lowest overall expense. And without this knowledge, it’s easy for them to be swayed by lower interest rates that may come with significant hidden costs.

APR in Mortgages

Let’s say you come across two mortgage offers: one with a 4% interest rate and another with a 3.75% interest rate but a higher loan origination fee. When you compare the interest rate alone, the second option may seem more favorable. However, when you look at all the fees through the APR, you can see the true cost. This allows you to guide your client to the loan with the lowest total cost, even if it means changing their expectations about the initial interest rate. This is how the APR helps in comparing mortgage offers.

Common Misconceptions

The APR is always surrounded by some misconceptions. The most common is that the APR is the same as the interest rate. As we’ve already covered, the APR includes the interest rate plus any additional fees. Another common belief is that a lower annual percentage right always means a better deal. But this is not always the case. Loan terms like the repayment period also play a role. A slightly higher APR with a shorter repayment term might be more cost-effective in the long run.

How to Get a Lower APR

Knowledge is power, but sometimes your clients will need a little help getting a lower APR. Here are our actionable tips on how to do that:

  • Improving credit scores, as this is the biggest factor influencing the APR
  • Shopping around and comparing offers to increase competition and potentially get better rates
  • Negotiating to reduce certain fees that can lower the overall APR
  • Consolidating high-interest debt or considering balance transfer offers to lower overall borrowing costs


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Annual percentage rate can be the key to smart borrowing as it cuts through the confusion of loan options. By taking into account all fees, not just the interest rate, it provides a clear picture of the annual cost of borrowing. When comparing loan offers, such a clear picture plays a decisive role in selecting the right option that best fits your client’s budget over the long term.

If you still have questions about APR calculations and are struggling to choose the right loan product for your client, the experts at A&D Mortgage are here to help! Contact us today, and let us answer all your questions and clear up any doubts.