I was talking to a notary on the East Coast. I was going to ask him a loan signing question, but then he retorted back a question in my direction before I could ask my question.
How do you explain the APR to a non-borrowing spouse?, he asked.
I gave him my routine mathematical definition of the APR and he was impressed. When he asked the question, I was thinking that this is a great question. It sounded like a trick question, but it actually is a very reasonable question. It suddenly occured to me that the non-borrowing spouse is the epitomy of a lay-person, and doesn’t understand complicated terms such as “amortized” or “finance charges”. If you have an MBA in Finance, you might not be the best person to explain an APR to someone’s wife. So, part of the genious of this question is that it tells you to use layperson language without telling you directly.
The other great aspect of this question is that it gives the opportunity to tangent goers to go off on a tangent — and they take this opportunity. I ask this question to many people, and 20% of the people go off on a very long explanation of what documents the non-borrowing spouse has to sign. But, that has nothing to do with the question. They didn’t LISTEN. This is a good listening and tangent going question. You learn very quickly who listens, and who can talk as well.
People notoriously leave out 90% of the meat of the answer when describing this confusing and diabolical term.
“It includes the fees”
Trust me, it includes a lot more than the fees.
“It reflects the cost of the loan”
Trust me, it also includes your interest as well as whatever the cost is.
“It’s usually higher than the rate”
Boy, are we being vague.
“It includes interest and fees”
Better, but very uneducated sounding.
Most answers to this question are either missing the target, or miss the main point of the APR.
The APR is a RATIO that is based on the payments relative to the total amount financed after: some of the finance charges, perhaps points, perhaps loan origination fees, PMI, and perhaps other fees have been deducted — and is reflected on a compounded annual rate.
I am not a lender and don’t know the “Real” definition. But, how the APR is calculated can vary from state to state, and from lender to lender. So, there is no absolute definition, but only definitions that are approximate. Unfortunately, the definitions I am hearing from the notaries are overly simplistic and generally just plain wrong!