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A mortgage loan's annual percentage rate (APR) is usually higher than its interest rate because it includes all the costs of borrowing and not just interest charges. Other costs incorporated into a loan's APR may include closing costs, broker fees, points and other charges you incur when getting the loan.
What Is an Interest Rate?
Expressed as a percentage, a mortgage loan's interest rate represents the annual cost of borrowing money in terms of interest only. Lenders use the loan's interest rate and balance to determine how much interest accrues each day and how much you pay each month. This rate does not include other costs of borrowing, such as upfront or ongoing fees.
Note that a mortgage interest rate can be fixed or adjustable. With a fixed-rate loan, your interest rate remains the same for the life of the loan. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, your rate will be fixed for an initial period—usually between three and 10 years—after which it becomes variable, fluctuating based on market conditions.
What Is an APR?
A mortgage annual percentage rate (APR) is another rate lenders use to show your annual cost of borrowing—but in addition to interest costs, it also includes all charges and fees associated with the loan. Because it includes all of the costs associated with the loan, the APR represents the true cost of borrowing.
APR vs. Interest Rate
The terms interest rate and APR are often used interchangeably, and in cases where a loan does not charge fees to obtain financing, the two can be the same.
But because mortgage loans virtually always come with closing costs and may also include other charges, a home loan's APR and interest rate are usually different. Here's a quick summary of how the two are similar and different:
|Mortgage Interest vs. APR|
|Includes only the cost of interest||Includes the cost of interest, broker fees, closing costs, discount points and other charges incurred to obtain the loan|
|Used to calculate interest charges on the loan||Not used to calculate interest charges on the loan|
|Represented as an annualized percentage||Represented as an annualized percentage|
|Must be disclosed in your loan estimate||Must be disclosed in your loan estimate|
Why Is My APR Higher Than My Mortgage Rate?
The APR on a mortgage loan is higher than the loan's interest rate because it represents the total cost of borrowing, while the interest rate only represents one of those costs.
While mortgage rates may be more prominent in advertising, it's important to compare loan offers based on their APRs because the figure gives you a more accurate view of how expensive each offer is.
If there are no additional costs beyond interest, the APR and interest rate will be the same, but this scenario is rare for mortgage loans.
Build Credit to Reduce Your APR
Shopping around is an excellent way to ensure that you're getting the best APR you can on a home loan. But before you even start the comparison process, it's important to take time to build your credit history.
It's possible to get approved for a mortgage loan with a credit score in the low 600s or even the high 500s, depending on the program. But the higher your credit score, the better your odds of securing a low interest rate, which ultimately results in a lower APR.
Check your credit score to gauge your current credit health, and review your credit report for areas where you can make improvements. That may include paying down credit card balances, paying off small-balance loans, staying caught up on payments and more.
Getting your credit ready for a mortgage loan can take some time, but qualifying for even a slightly lower interest rate could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.