What is a Mortgage?
Mortgage is a loan that allows you to buy the biggest asset most of us will ever own — your home. It is a secured loan, meaning that the lender takes a legal “lien” or right to take ownership of the property if you fail to make your payments. Because a mortgage is the largest, longest-term loan most of us will ever assume, it is important to understand how it works and what it means for you.
The word mortgage is derived from an Anglo-American law term that refers to any agreement whereby the owner of a fee simple interest in real estate pledges that interest as collateral for a loan of a portion of the purchase price of the property. The word has become a generic form of the word loan in many markets, and it is the main method used to finance the acquisition of most homes in the United States and other countries.
While mortgages are often discussed in terms of a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio, the cost of a loan also depends on whether it is fixed at an agreed upon rate for the life of the loan or variable relative to market rates, as well as how it is paid off. Lenders also take a variety of risks when they lend money against the value of a property, and some of those risks are reflected in the interest rate charged on a mortgage.
There are many different ways to obtain a mortgage, and the mortgage lending industry is more competitive than ever before. Once dominated by traditional banks, savings and loans associations, and credit unions, the mortgage market now includes a large number of nonbank lenders such as Better, loanDepot, and Rocket Mortgage.
To qualify for a mortgage, borrowers typically need to meet minimum standards for credit score, income, and assets. The lender will usually conduct a thorough credit check before giving final approval for the loan. The process of getting preapproved for a mortgage typically involves a hard inquiry on the borrower’s credit report, which may lower the borrower’s credit score temporarily.
The most common way to repay a mortgage is through regular payments of principal and interest over a period of years, which is known as amortization. The loan is considered fully paid at the end of its scheduled term, a point called redemption or final repayment, although it may be closed before that time through refinance or sale.
If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, the first step is to contact your loan servicer and request a forbearance. This will stop your regular payments for a specified amount of time, which may vary by loan servicer. Once the forbearance period ends, you must begin making your regular payments again.
If you are unable to make your mortgage payments, the lender can take the property in a foreclosure or repossession, or sell it at auction. The process for collecting on a mortgage loan can be lengthy, and it is crucial to understand the timeline and processes involved.