APR vs Interest Rate: What are the differences?

When it comes to borrowing or lending money, you’ve likely heard the terms Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and mortgage interest rate tossed around. However, the difference between these two might be a bit of a mystery.

Both are crucial components of a loan, but they serve different purposes and can affect your payments in different ways. Here, we’ll break down these concepts, helping you understand how they work and how they impact your financial decisions. Grab a coffee, and let’s demystify these financial terms.

Continue reading to learn more about the key differences between APR and mortgage interest rates. You can also start your journey to a new home today by applying for a mortgage pre-approval.

What does APR mean?

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate, which reflects the total yearly cost of a mortgage, including the interest rate and all associated fees. Unlike the interest rate, which only shows the cost of borrowing the loan amount, the APR also includes broker fees and any other charges, providing a comprehensive view of the loan’s cost.

The APR is a useful tool for comparing different mortgage offers as it reflects the real cost of the loan. However, it’s crucial to consider other factors such as loan terms, monthly payments, and personal finances. Knowing the difference between APR and interest rate will help you know the true cost of your mortgage when buying a home.

How is APR calculated for a mortgage?

Understanding the calculation of the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is vital when shopping for mortgage rates. It’s a comprehensive measure of borrowing costs, including not just interest rates but also additional fees associated with the loan, like origination fees, closing costs, and upfront paid discount points.

These costs are spread over the loan’s life, resulting in an APR typically higher than the base interest rate. The APR provides a complete overview of what you’ll pay over the loan term, integrating both interest and fees. In the APR vs Interest Rate comparison, the interest rate is simply the cost of borrowing the principal amount, while APR includes added loan costs.

A lower APR is often seen as preferable, but consider other factors like loan term, monthly payments, and total costs. Always compare terms and conditions from various lenders before finalizing a mortgage loan.

What is a mortgage interest rate?

A mortgage interest rate is the percentage a lender charges for borrowing money to purchase a home, directly affecting monthly payments and overall loan cost. These rates can be fixed or variable. A fixed rate remains the same throughout the loan term, providing stability. A variable rate, however, varies over time, often tied to index rate changes.

How is an interest rate calculated for a mortgage?

The mortgage interest rate depends on several things, like the loan amount, loan term, and the borrower’s creditworthiness. Lenders use a base rate, often tied to a benchmark such as the prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and then add a margin to set the final interest rate.

The margin is influenced by the borrower’s credit score, financial history, and the overall risk associated with the loan. The formula commonly used is Interest Rate = Base Rate + Margin.

For fixed-rate mortgages, this rate remains constant over the loan term. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have interest rates that can change based on market conditions or terms in the loan agreement. It’s essential for borrowers to understand the terms of their mortgage and how the interest rate will impact their payments over time.

How are APR & mortgage interest rate different?

In essence, the mortgage interest rate focuses on the cost of borrowing, while the APR offers a broader view by including additional fees, aiding borrowers in making informed comparisons between loan options.

Mortgage Interest Rate

  • Represents the percentage of the loan amount paid to the lender for borrowing money.
  • Determines the primary factor in calculating the monthly mortgage payment.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  • Includes not only the interest rate but also certain fees associated with obtaining the loan.
  • Expressed as an annual percentage, providing a more comprehensive measure of the total cost of borrowing.
  • Designed to help borrowers compare different loan offers more accurately.

What are the components of a mortgage rate?

Several components collectively determine the overall cost of borrowing, which makes up your mortgage rate. Here are the key components:

Base Rate

The base rate serves as the starting point for calculating the interest rate. It is often tied to a benchmark rate like the prime rate or LIBOR.


The lender adds a margin to the base rate, reflecting the lender’s profit and risk associated with the borrower. The borrower’s creditworthiness influences the margin.

Loan Amount

The amount of money borrowed, known as the loan amount, directly affects the interest paid. Generally, a higher loan amount results in higher interest payments.

Loan Term

The loan term, or the length of time the borrower has to repay the loan, influences the interest rate. Shorter-term loans often have lower interest rates than longer-term loans.

Credit Score

The borrower’s credit score is a significant factor in determining the interest rate. A higher credit score generally results in a lower interest rate and vice versa.

Down Payment

The size of the down payment can impact the interest rate. A larger down payment may lead to a lower interest rate, as it reduces the lender’s risk.

Loan Type

Different loans have different interest rates, like fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages. Fixed-rate mortgages have a constant rate, while ARMs may adjust periodically.

Market Conditions

Economic conditions and trends in the financial markets influence mortgage rates. Factors like inflation, the overall interest rate environment, and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy play a role.

Understanding these parts helps borrowers comprehend the factors that influence their mortgage rate. This knowledge empowers them to make informed decisions when selecting a mortgage.

How can I start on a mortgage application?

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a common first step that prospective homebuyers take. A pre-approval shows sellers and real estate agents that you’re serious, and it gives you an idea of how much you’re likely to get approved for.

Start the process by checking out our mortgage rates and then submitting an application

Applicant subject to credit and underwriting approval. Not all applicants will be approved for financing. Receipt of application does not represent an approval for financing or interest rate guarantee. Restrictions may apply, contact Owning for current rates and for more information.

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