Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Mortgage APR includes the interest rate, point and fees charged by the lender. APR is higher than the interest rate because it encompasses all these loan costs.
APR is a tool that lets you compare mortgage offers that have different combinations of interest rates, discount points and fees. Comparing APRs is most useful if you plan to keep the loan for more than six or seven years. But if you plan to keep the loan for less than six or seven years, APR comparisons could be misleading. That's because the APR calculation assumes that you'll keep the loan for its entire term. But not every borrower does that. Most people sell the home or refinance the loan before it's paid off.
As a hypothetical example, let's say you're comparing two offers on a $200,000 loan for 30 years:
Loan A: You could borrow $200,000 with an interest rate of 4.25%, paying a 1% origination fee, no discount points and $1,000 in other fees. The 1% origination fee costs $2,000, and other fees are $1,000. Total fees: $3,000.
Loan B: You could pay a discount point to reduce the interest rate. In this offer, you could borrow $200,000 with an interest rate of 4%, paying a 1% origination fee, 1 discount point and $1,000 in other fees. The 1% origination fee costs $2,000, the 1 discount point costs another $2,000, and other fees are $1,000. Total fees: $5,000.
Conclusion: Loan A has a higher interest rate (4.25%) and lower fees ($3,000), while Loan B has a lower interest rate (4%) and higher fees ($5,000), because you could pay $2,000 to buy 1 discount point to cut the interest rate by 0.25%. As you see in the table below, Loan B has a lower APR, which means that you end up paying less over the 30-year life of the loan when you include principal, interest and upfront fees.