Understanding Your Mortgage APR

By Becca Stanek · November 07, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Understanding Your Mortgage APR

If you’re getting a mortgage, one important consideration is the APR, or annual percentage rate, on your loan. This is something different from your interest rate: The home loan APR reveals the overall cost of your mortgage, reflecting both the interest rate and any additional costs that must be factored in.

Knowing the APR on a home loan is a key bit of intel which can influence your overall costs as you move towards homeownership. To help you better understand this concept and how APR is calculated, read on. You’ll likely be better prepared to know which loan offer best suits your needs, today and tomorrow.

What Is APR?

APR stands for annual percentage rate, and it’s used to measure the cost of borrowing money from lenders for various reasons, such as your mortgage loan. While it’s often presented at the same time as your interest rate, it isn’t the same thing.

APR is expressed as a percentage and takes into account not only the interest rate but also many of the costs that are associated with the loan. When it comes to borrowing a mortgage, these costs can include such items as these, among others:

•   Origination fees

•   Application fees

•   Processing fees

•   Discount points.

APR provides a more comprehensive picture of the total cost of the mortgage loan. It gives you an overall view of the fees and costs you would have to pay that are included in the finance charge. If you compare just the interest rate, the additional fees and costs aren’t represented, which could give you an incomplete picture when it comes to determining the actual cost of the loan. That could negatively impact your ability to budget accurately for your home loan costs.

Since not all lenders charge the same fees or interest rates, comparing APRs is usually a better way to compare the total cost of your loan from one lender to another.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t overpay for your mortgage. Get a competitive rate by shopping around for a home loan.

Why Is APR Important When Taking Out a Mortgage?

Knowing the APR can help consumers be more informed while comparison shopping for loan products. Thanks to the Truth in Lending Act, lenders are required to disclose the APR of their loans, as well as all fees and charges associated with a loan.

The APR should include all finance charge fees, which can make it easier for borrowers to sort through loan comparisons to find the right mortgage.

How Are Interest Rates Calculated?

As we’ve discussed, APR and interest rate aren’t the same, but your interest rate does impact your APR. So, how exactly are interest rates calculated?

Your interest rate is a percentage of your mortgage rate. What that percentage will be depends on what type of mortgage loan you have.

•   With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll pay the same interest rate for the entire time you have the loan.

•   With an adjustable rate mortgage, on the other hand, your rate will fluctuate throughout the life of the loan.
Also, keep in mind that any unpaid interest gets added to the mortgage principal. This means you’ll have to pay interest on that interest.

Your lender will determine your specific interest rate based on your financial specifics, such as your credit score, as well as the current economic conditions and market interest rates. Lenders usually use their own unique formula to calculate interest rates, which is why your rate can vary from lender to lender — and why it’s important to shop around for rates.

Recommended: APR vs. Interest Rate: What’s The Difference?

How to Calculate Your APR

When you’re getting a mortgage, you may want to be extra thorough and calculate the APR yourself. There’s a way to make that happen. But be warned, it’s not necessarily a super fun math project, but hey, where there’s a formula, there’s a way, right?

•   To get started, you’ll have to know the approximate monthly Principal and Interest (P&I) payment on your loan. Maybe your lender has already told you what it would be, but if not, you could calculate it with an online mortgage calculator or by hand.

•   You’ll need to have a loan amount, interest rate and a term in years.

•   Once you have the monthly P&I payment calculated, you’ll then be able to calculate the APR, which you can do with an online calculator. Keep in mind that because you don’t know what your applicable APR loan fees will be, it can be wise to use a ballpark estimate. If the loan costs that will impact your APR are 2% of your loan amount and your loan amount is $200,000, your loan costs for calculating the APR will be $4,000.

💡 Quick Tip: Lowering your monthly payments with a mortgage refinance from SoFi can help you find money to pay down other debt, build your rainy-day fund, or put more into your 401(k).

Why You Need to be Careful When Using APR to Compare Mortgages

When you’re getting a mortgage, you will likely have the APRs for all the mortgage offers you’re considering. Your APR is important to consider because it factors in the expense of additional fees over the life of your mortgage. If you’re applying for a 30-year mortgage, those fees are spread over 30 years.

But do you plan to live in your home for the full 30 years of your mortgage and never refinance your mortgage? If you sell your home after five years, rather than staying for the duration of your 30-year loan, you’ll still have to pay for the loan fees (such as origination fees).

That’s why it’s important to consider and compare APRs when choosing a mortgage. If you plan on living in the home for a limited time, a lender that offers fewer fees might be a better choice than a lender with a low APR but lots of fees. You may want to consult with your financial advisor before making this decision.

When you’re mortgage shopping, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer, you also may want to proceed with caution when comparing the APRs of fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages if you are using an online calculator. The APR on adjustable-rate loans may not be an accurate representation of the cost of the loan since some calculators cannot anticipate the frequency or amounts of the interest rate changes.

Recommended: Tips When Shopping for a Mortgage

The Takeaway

When getting a home loan, your interest rate and APR, or annual percentage rate, are not the same thing. The APR can reflect the overall cost of the loan, including various fees, for instance.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your home-buying journey, the first step is taking stock of your mortgage options. Comparing each loan’s APR is a quick and easy way to see how your offers stack up although it isn’t the only factor to take into account.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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