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APR vs Interest Rate: Understanding the Difference

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

When you’re shopping for a loan, don’t let your research end with a comparison of lenders’ interest rates. While a low interest rate is appealing, it’s important to also look at each loan’s annual percentage rate (APR), which will provide a clearer picture of how much the loan will cost you when fees and other costs are factored in.

APR vs Interest Rate: Understanding the differences

The difference between APR and interest rate is that APR will give borrowers a truer picture of how much the loan will cost them. While APR is expressed as an interest rate, it is not related to the monthly payment, which is calculated using only the interest rate. Instead, APR reflects the interest rate along with fees and other one-time costs a borrower will pay for a loan.

“You can find a mortgage that has a 4-percent interest rate, but with a bunch of fees, that APR may be 4.6 or 4.7 percent,” said Todd Nelson, senior vice president-business development officer with online lender Lightstream. “With all of those fees baked in, they are going to swing the interest rate.”

For example, one lender may charge no fees, so the loan’s APR and interest rate are the same. The second lender may charge a 5 percent origination fee, which will increase the APR on that loan.

How the APR is calculated

Lenders calculate APR by adding fees and costs to the loan’s interest rate and creating a new price for the loan. Here’s an example that shows how APR is calculated using LendingTree’s loan calculator.

A lender approves a $100,000 at a 4.5 percent interest rate. The borrower decides to buy one point, a fee paid to the lender in exchange for a reduced rate, for $1,000. The loan also includes $900 in fees.

With these fees and costs added to the loan, the adjusted balance being borrowed is $101,900. The monthly payment is then $516.31 with the 4.5 percent interest rate, compared with $506.69 if the balance had remained at $100,000.

To find the APR, the lender returns to the original loan amount of $100,000 and calculates the interest rate that would create a monthly payment of $516.31. In this example, that APR would be 4.661 percent.

APRs will vary from lender to lender because different lenders charge different fees. Some may offer competitive interest rates but then tack on expensive fees and costs. Lenders with the same interest rate and APR are not charging any fees on that loan, and lenders that offer APR and interest rates that are the closest will charge the least-substantial amount of fees and extra costs.

What can impact my APR?

While APR will change as interest rates fluctuate, lenders’ fees and costs will have the greatest impact on APR. Here are some of the fees that will affect the APR.

Discount points: Buying points to lower a loan’s interest rate can have a significant impact on APR. Lenders allow buyers to purchase “points” in return for a lower interest rate. A point is equal to one percent of the mortgage loan amount. For example, a buyer approved for a $100,000 loan could buy three points, at $1,000 each, to lower the interest rate from 4.5 to 4.15.

Loan origination fees: Loan origination fees typically range between 1 and 6 percent, according to Nelson. This can be especially significant for larger loans.

Loan processing: This fee, which some lenders will negotiate, pays for the cost of processing a mortgage application.

Underwriting: These fees cover an underwriter’s review of a loan application, including the borrower’s income, credit history, assets and liabilities, and property appraisal, to determine whether the lender should approve the loan application and what terms should be applied to the loan.

Appraisal review: Some lenders pay an outside reviewer to make sure an appraisal meets underwriting standards and that the appraiser has submitted an accurate report of the home’s value.

Document drawing: Lenders often charge a fee for creating mortgage documents for a loan.

Commonly not included in APR are notary fees, credit report costs, title insurance and escrow services, the appraisal, home inspection, attorney fees, document preparation and recording fees.

Because APR includes a loan’s interest rate, rising interest rates will increase APR for mortgages, auto loans and other types of loans and credit.

Interest rate vs APR: What should I focus on when shopping for a mortgage?

While lenders often push their low interest rates when they advertise loans, Nelson said it’s vital that consumers check loans’ APR when shopping around and pay attention to how loan advertisements are worded.

“Look for a lender that’s transparent about disclosing all of those fees,” he said. Lenders may advertise “no hidden fees,” he said, but that might mean there are other fees that simply aren’t hidden.

Here’s how two loans for the same amount can have different APRs.

Loan amount

Fees and costs

Fixed interest rate

APR

$200,000

$1,700

4.5%

4.572%

$200,000

$2,600

4.5%

4.61%

The Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose APR in advertising so that consumers can make an equivalent comparison between loans. If two loan offers have similar APRs, request a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) or Loan Estimate from each lender.

Lenders are required to provide this document, which shows all expenses associated with the mortgage, within three business days of the loan application date. Some lenders may be willing to supply a loan estimate for consumers who are shopping for a loan.

APRs on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs): What to know

It’s important to remember that the APR on ARMs will not apply for the life of the loan, as the payment on the loan will change as the economy fluctuates. APR on ARMs is calculated for the interest rate during the loan’s introductory period, and no one can predict how much the rate will increase in years to come.

A loan with a 7/1 ARM, for example, will have a fixed rate for the first seven years that is determined by the current economic conditions on the day the loan was approved. After seven years, the lender will begin to adjust the rate based on movement of the economic index, which likely will not be the same as it was when the loan was approved. Rates fluctuate daily, and no economic forecaster can predict where the index will be in 20 or 25 years.

Understanding mortgage interest rates

A mortgage rate is another term for interest rate, which is the rate that a lender uses to determine how much to charge a customer for borrowing money. Mortgage rates can be either fixed or adjustable.

Fixed mortgage rates do not change over the life of a loan. For example, if you take out a 30-year loan at a 4.25 percent interest rate, that rate will stay the same regardless of changes in the economy and market index, through the entire lifetime of the loan.

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM), on the other hand, will change as the market changes after an introductory period, often set at five or seven years. That means your interest rate could go up or down depending on economic conditions, which will in turn raise or lower your payments.

ARMs, which are a common type of mortgage loan with an adjustable rate, often start with a lower interest rate than a fixed mortgage — but only for that introductory period. After that, the rate could go up as it adjusts to market conditions, which could raise your payment accordingly.

If you are considering an ARM, it’s important to talk to your lender first about what the adjustable rate could mean for your loan payment after the introductory period. The federal government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends researching:

  • Whether your ARM has a cap on how high or low your interest rate can go.
  • How often your rate will be adjusted.
  • How much your monthly payment and interest rate can increase with each adjustment.
  • Whether you can still afford the loan if the interest rate and monthly payment reach their maximum under your loan contract.

How is your mortgage rate calculated?

Don’t be surprised if a lender offers you a mortgage interest rate that is higher than what is advertised. Each loan’s interest rate is primarily determined by market conditions and by the borrower’s financial health. Lenders take into account:

  • Your credit score: Borrowers with higher credit scores generally receive better interest rates.
  • The terms of the loan: The number of months you agree to pay back the loan can make a difference. Generally, a shorter term loan will have a lower rate than a longer term loan but higher monthly payments.
  • The location of the property you are purchasing: Interest rates are different in rural and urban areas, and sometimes they can vary by county.
  • The amount of the loan: Interest rates can be different for loan amounts that are unusually large or small.
  • Down payment: Lenders may offer a lower rate to borrowers who can make a larger down payment, which often is an indicator that the borrower is financially secure and more likely to pay back the loan.
  • Type of loan: While many borrowers apply for conventional mortgages, the federal government offers loan programs through the FHA, USDA, and VA that often offer lower interest rates.

How often do mortgage rates change?

Mortgage rates fluctuate on a daily basis. Because the market changes so often, lenders typically give borrowers the opportunity to lock in or float your interest rate for 30, 45, or 60 days from the day your lender approves your loan. That way you won’t get burned if rates rise soon after you secure a loan.

If you choose to lock in your rate, lenders will honor that rate within the agreed-upon time period before closing regardless of market fluctuations. Floating your rate will allow you to secure a lower interest rate before closing, should rates drop during that period.

How do mortgage rate changes impact the cost of borrowing?

Small differences in the interest rate can cost a borrower thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Here’s an example for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage using our parent company LendingTree’s online mortgage calculator tool:

Mortgage (30-year)

Fixed interest rate

Monthly payment

Total borrowing cost

$200,000

3.65%

$914.92

$129,371.20

$200,000

3.85%

$937.62

$137,543.20

$200,000

4.25%

$983.88

$154,196.80

What’s a good rate on a mortgage?

While mortgage rates change daily, Nelson noted that mortgage rates have stayed low for several years now and don’t show signs that they will increase drastically in the nearly future.

LendingTree’s LoanExplorer tool recently showed interest rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage as low as 3.625% for borrowers with excellent credit.

Shop wisely

When shopping for loans, you can best compare loans by getting mortgage quotes from lenders at the same day on the same time. Online marketplaces such as LendingTree also can provide real-time loan offers from multiple lenders, which makes it easier to compare mortgage APR vs. interest rates.

Don’t be dazzled by low interest rates. If the loan’s APR matches its low interest rate, you likely have a good deal. Otherwise, investigate the costs and fees behind a loan’s APR to best determine which loan offer is the best deal.

Learn more about how you can compare quotes from lenders at LendingTree.com.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

Marty Minchin is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marty here

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Commercial Mortgage Refinancing: How Does It Work?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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In business, there are many reasons why you may want — or need — to look into commercial mortgage refinancing. Maybe your credit score has vastly improved over the last few years and you’re hoping to score a better interest rate, or maybe you’re trying to avoid making a large balloon payment at the end of your current loan term. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to consider a new loan, the process can seem daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be. This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of refinancing a commercial mortgage so that you can make the financing decisions that will work best for you and your business.

Why refinance a commercial loan?

Lower interest rates

The first reason why you may want to refinance a commercial mortgage is to take advantage of lower interest rates. Interest rates are still at relative lows, historically, and if your financial situation has improved since the last time you were approved for a loan, you could be a candidate to take advantage of those lower rates.

Increased cash flow

The main benefit of those lower interest rates is that you’ll have a decreased monthly payment. That lower payment means increased savings, which can be a source of greater cash flow.

On the other hand, you also have the option of doing a cash-out refinance, in which you borrow more money than you currently owe. The excess comes to you as tax-free funds to be used however you wish. Usually, people use this method to undertake big projects like making improvements to the property or funding an expansion.

Better loan terms

Another reason why someone might consider refinancing is to create an opportunity to negotiate more favorable loan terms. This could mean moving from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a more stable fixed-rate option or simply tailoring the length of the loan to meet your current needs.

Avoiding balloon payments

Additionally, refinancing your loan could be a way to avoid having to make a sizable balloon payment — a larger-than-usual one-time payment at the end of the loan’s term. Mortgages with balloon payments generally come with lower, sometimes interest-only, payments over the life of the loan. However, when the balance of the loan becomes due, it could amount to thousands of dollars. If you don’t have that amount of cash on hand, refinancing will allow you to extend your repayment window.

What are the borrower requirements to refinance?

In order to get approved for a commercial mortgage, you’ll need to meet certain borrower requirements. Though the exact specifications will vary by lending institution, here’s a general overview of what you can expect:

Repayment ability

First and foremost, lenders want see that you have the ability to actually repay the loan. Typically, this is determined by something called a Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). It’s found by dividing your business’s net operating income by annual loan payments. In this case, it’s best to shoot for a ratio of 1.2 or more.

Management

Ideally, your business will have a strong management history in order to prove its longevity. For this reason, most lenders limit themselves to businesses that have been operating for two years or more. You may also be asked to show a resume or business plan detailing your experience and future projections.

Equity

In this case, equity refers to the stake that the owner has in the property. In some instances in which the property generates enough income on its own, it can serve as its own collateral. In others, the borrower must put up personal collateral of his or her own.

Credit history

Finally, lenders want to be sure that you have a history of paying off existing debts, so they’ll check your credit score. Be aware that both your business and personal scores may be evaluated.

How does a commercial refinance differ from a home loan refinance?

“Lenders look at this type of loan differently,” said James Hoopes, a senior vice president at NorthMarq Capital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“With home loans, your personal credit decides whether or not you get the loan. Here, the amount of income the property produces from its tenants is just as — if not more — important than your credit score.”

In addition to differences in qualifying requirements, Hoopes pointed out that there are huge differences in the way residential and commercial loans get paid off.

“Residential loans tend to amortize over the life of the loan,” he explained, “meaning that the homeowners will have usually paid off the loan in full by the end of the term.”

“Commercial loans, on the other hand, tend to have an amortization period that’s longer than the loan term, which means that borrowers can find themselves facing a large payment when the loan comes due.”

Above all, Hoopes cautions borrowers to think carefully before refinancing their commercial loans. These types of loans come with high penalties that aren’t seen when refinancing traditional home loans.

Types of commercial loans

These days, there are a few distinct types of commercial loans that you can choose from. Be sure to research each one before applying so that you know which type of financing is best for your business.

SBA 7(a) loans

The SBA 7(a) loan is the most common type of small-business loan. The loan is popular because it’s backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is geared toward serving businesses that might otherwise be turned down by banks. These loans come with a limit of $5 million, and the SBA agrees to back up to 85% of loans up to $150,000 and 75% of those above that amount.

CDC/SBA 504 loans

Another government-backed loan, the CDC/SBA 504 loan is different from the SBA 7(a) loan in the way it’s structured. For this, the SBA will provide 40% of the total project costs, while a Certified Development Company (CDC) will provide an additional 50%, and your down payment will account for the final 10%. Due to its structure, there is no limit on how much you can borrow for CDC/SBA 504 loans; however, the maximum amount that the SBA will provide is $5 million.

Private loans

Private loans are offered by a bank or mortgage company. Traditionally, these loans offer competitively low interest rates. In exchange, however, they typically come with higher qualifying standards in terms of acceptable credit scores and operating histories.

How can you find a lender?

Ideally, you’ll already have a lender in place from the last time you applied for a mortgage. However, if that’s not the case, don’t hesitate to do your own research. Ask your industry contacts who they use for financing, use the SBA website’s free lender match service and read online reviews.

The commercial loan refinancing process

“The first step to refinancing a commercial loan is figuring out what kind of loan you need,” advised Hoopes of NorthMarq Capital. This means taking a close look at why you want to refinance, whether it’s to secure a lower interest rate or to fund renovations via a cash-out option.

The next step is to shop around. “Talk to different lenders in your area to get a sense of what they can offer you. Ask about interest rates, fees and other terms until you find the best proposal for you,” he continued.

From there, it’s all about gathering the right documentation and filling out an application. Every lending institution will have different application requirements. However, in general, you should expect to need the following: a property description, a rent roll, proof of income (profit/loss or revenue/expense statements showing several years of operating history) and the borrower’s resume and financial statements.

“After that, you can enter what’s known as the underwriting period,” Hoopes said. “During this time, the lender will order an appraisal and other third-party reports to determine if you’re eligible to receive the loan.”

“Once the loan has been approved, the lender will issue a loan commitment and, at that point, it’s just a matter of preparing the legal documents for closing,” he concluded.

Fees and closing costs

Not surprisingly, fees can vary from lender to lender, as well; however, two common fees that you should watch out for are prepayment penalties and and a guaranty fee. Prepayment penalties can be hefty and result from paying off your existing mortgage early with your new loan.

For their part, only SBA loans are subject to the guaranty fee. This fee is charged to the lender but is passed along to you for the security of having a government-backed loan. Only the amount of the loan that’s backed by the SBA is taxed, rather than the loan’s face value.

Luckily, closing costs are a bit more predictable. “As a rule of thumb, for loans under $10 million, I would estimate 2% of the loan amount for both closing costs and lender fees, not including legal fees,” Hoopes said. “But they can move up from there.”

The bottom line

At first glance, commercial mortgage refinancing can seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of research, planning and forethought, you should be able to find a commercial loan that serves your and your business’s needs.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Tara Mastroeni
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Tara Mastroeni is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tara here

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What You Should Know About VA Construction Loans

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Ready to build your dream home? If you’re an active-duty service member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, you may not realize that the Veterans Administration (VA) backs construction loans to help offset the costs of turning that house in your head into a reality.

Jesse Gonzalez, broker of record at North Bay Capital in Santa Rosa, California, and member of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP), said these loans are relatively new and not well-known, even among active-duty service members. “There are not a lot of mortgage professionals doing these,” Gonzalez said. “My competition is sparse in this area because most mortgage professionals simply don’t understand it.”

But experts like Gonzalez say a VA construction loan is a fantastic resource for folks who want to build a home. Unlike conventional construction loans, VA construction loans offer a host of special benefits — from the possibility of 100% financing without a down payment to locked-in interest rates that won’t change over the years of the loan.

So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this resource? Do you need a special credit score or an approved contractor to build your new home? Let’s take a look at what you might need to do to get some help from the VA to build that house.

Qualifications for a VA construction loan

Much like VA loans designed to purchase an existing home, VA construction loans carry a number of eligibility criteria that lenders will look for before offering you this special type of mortgage.

Before you call a private lender (more on that later), take a look at some of the qualifications you’ll likely need to get one of these loans:

  • Loans are open to veterans, active-duty military or eligible surviving spouses of members of the Armed Forces. You can check your eligibility on the VA’s website.
  • Lenders require a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), a special form issued by the government to prove you’re eligible for a VA-backed loan.
    Homes must be built by a licensed contractor (building it yourself or with relatives is typically not allowed).
  • Homes must be built as a primary residence and occupied within 60 days of completion (exceptions are made for business units built on properties primarily intended for residential use).
  • A minimum credit score of 620 is typically required, although some exceptions can be made.

Minimum property requirements for VA construction loans

Even if you and your home plans fit the bill for a VA construction loan, you should be prepared to jump through a number of hoops once you actually start construction.

Although the VA doesn’t put restrictions on the overall design of the house — whether you build a cute bungalow or a sprawling McMansion is up to you — if you’re going to build with a VA-backed loan footing the bill, your property will have to meet several requirements regarding usage, utilities and the like.

Some of the major things to be aware of include

  • Usage — VA loans are intended to help people with housing, so it’s no surprise the VA construction loan requires the primary use be residential. Up to four units are allowed on certain properties, depending on size. Business units are allowed, provided they don’t “impair the residential character of the property,” according to VA rules, or exceed 25% of the gross floor area.
  • Living space — The size of the living space must accommodate living, sleeping, cooking and dining space.
  • Utilities — Water, sewer, gas and electricity must be available for the unit (or units, if there are multiple). Homes must have a means for safe sewage disposal, and connection to public sewerage is required, if it’s feasible.

Steps to getting a VA construction loan

If you’re interested in applying for a VA construction loan, a private lender may be able to help you, and some of the process will be similar to that of a conventional loan application.

  1. Certificate of Eligibility. This step is required only for VA-backed loans, not conventional loans, but it’s a must! To apply, you can fill out an online application, send in your documents by mail, or ask a lender for help.
  2. Prequalification. This is the first step of any loan process, and it will include a credit check as well as the need to provide the COE, income documents, and possibly proof of other assets. You may also be asked to undergo the following:
    1. Builder registration. This is a review of your chosen contractor to ensure it’s reputable and up to the task.
    2. Deal calculation. This number crunching will be done by the lender as he or she figures out a total loan amount that includes any closing costs, seller or building concessions, interest and more.
  3. Underwriting. This is step two of the process. Your lender will submit the loan for review. As with conventional loans, the underwriter will look at your income, credit, assets and construction plans. Information to verify your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio may also be requested by some lenders. In the case of a VA construction loan, the underwriter also will look to see that your builder is approved by the VA.
  4. Closing. VA construction loans allow for something called a “one-time close.” While traditional building loans usually require the borrower take out and refinance a construction loan as a permanent home loan once construction is complete, VA borrowers get to skip that second step. Instead, there’s a single closing, at which time the borrower and lender sign all necessary paperwork and money is handed over so that construction can begin. The builder will use the money to build, but payback of the loan won’t begin until construction is complete.

Pros of a VA construction loan

Why would you want to get a VA construction loan, if you’re eligible, when you could just buy an existing home?

According to Evan Wade, co-founder and partner of Philadelphia Mortgage Brokers in Philadelphia and member of the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), VA construction loans are especially popular in areas with limited housing inventory.

“The VA does not wish to restrict the type of homes a veteran is able to buy,” Wade explained. “If a veteran wishes to construct a brand new house while still being able to utilize their hard-earned benefits, they should definitely be able to do so.”

The benefits don’t stop there. A construction loan could allow the freedom to design a home that truly suits your and your family’s needs, instead of making do with a home that’s simply “almost right.” Here are some other benefits for which you might qualify with a VA construction loan:

  • Lower interest rates
  • Skipping a down payment
  • Avoiding Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which typically is not required

Cons of a VA construction loan

There are, of course, some aspects of a VA construction loan that might not make it a perfect fit. Before you approach a lender, you might want to take the following into consideration:

  • VA construction loans require builders be approved by the VA. That means you can’t build your home yourself or use friends and family helpers to cut construction costs.
  • Some building styles are banned under this construction loan, such as a tiny house.
  • Not all lenders, even lenders who offer VA loans, provide VA construction loans.

Where can you find a VA construction loan?

It can be tough to find a lender who is versed in VA construction loans; however, they are out there. Asking friends or family who are also in the military world for word-of-mouth recommendations can be a great way to find the perfect lender who can walk you through the process.

VAREP also offers a “find a member” option on its website to assist in locating military-friendly mortgage professionals located around the U.S.

Before you borrow

When it comes to building a home, the VA construction loan is a valuable option for would-be homeowners who qualify. If you’re not sure one is right for you, you might also want to consider a traditional construction loan.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jeanne Sager
Jeanne Sager |

Jeanne Sager is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jeanne here

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