How To Invest In Mortgage Notes

How To Invest In Mortgage Notes

Mortgage notes, or “notes,” are promises to repay a certain amount of money borrowed at a specific interest rate within a defined period. When someone takes out a mortgage to buy a property, they sign a note as a commitment to repay the loan. This note can be sold, transferring the buyer’s responsibility for the monthly mortgage payments.

Why Invest in Mortgage Notes?

One of the primary appeals of mortgage notes is the steady cash flow they offer. When you own a mortgage note, you step into the shoes of a bank, collecting monthly mortgage payments that encompass both the principal and interest. It’s like having a reliable income stream flowing right into your pocket.

But what makes this investment even more attractive is the security it provides. Unlike other investments, mortgage notes are backed by a tangible asset – the property. So, if the borrower can’t keep up with their payments, you, as the note holder, have the right to take control of the property through foreclosure. You then have the option to sell it or rent it out.

Now, let’s talk about flexibility. Investing in notes isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. There are several avenues to explore. For instance, you could buy non-performing notes (those where the borrower has stopped making payments) at a discount. From there, you can negotiate new terms with the borrower or go through foreclosure.

This brings us to the potential for high returns. Non-performing notes often come with the opportunity to buy at a significant discount. If you can help the borrower get their payments back on track or sell the property post-foreclosure, you could see a substantial return on your investment.

Another appealing aspect of note investing is the level of control it offers. As a note holder dealing with non-performing notes, you can modify loan terms, defer payments, or, in certain circumstances, even discount the principal. Many investors find this level of control quite enticing.

For those investors who prefer to steer clear of the responsibilities of property ownership – think maintenance and tenant issues – note investing can serve as a more passive alternative to direct real estate investment.

Lastly, let’s remember diversification. Mortgage notes can add another layer of diversity to your investment portfolio, countering traditional assets like stocks or bonds.

Types Of Mortgage Notes

There are two types of notes: performing and non-performing. Performing notes are where the borrower makes regular payments as agreed. Investors can purchase these for stable cash flow. Non-performing notes are in default, meaning the borrower isn’t making their scheduled payments. Investors can buy these at significant discounts and then work on modifying the loan, foreclosing, or finding other resolution strategies for potential returns.

There are also first and second mortgages. First mortgages are primary loans used to buy a property, while second mortgages (often home equity loans) are subordinate to first mortgages. Each type has a different risk profile.

There are fixed-rate mortgage notes where income is predictable and adjustable-rate mortgages where fluctuating rates can make income less predictable.

You also have mortgage notes with different origins; some originated with banks (institutional), while some are seller-financed (private). The underwriting standards differ based on the origin of the mortgage notes.

Mortgage Note Ecosystem

Within the ecosystem, there are different key players. Originators create the original mortgage, which can be banks, credit unions, or other mortgage lenders.

Servicers handle the day-to-day administration of a mortgage, such as collecting payments and managing escrow accounts.

Brokers & Marketplaces connect note sellers with potential buyers. Investors can be individuals, hedge funds, or institutional entities that buy notes as an investment strategy.

Due Diligence Providers specialize in providing detailed background checks on notes, including property appraisals, title checks, and borrower evaluations.

Property owners make the agreed-upon mortgage payments to the mortgage note holders.

How To Generate Income

Investing in notes can open up a plethora of income-generating opportunities. 

When you own a mortgage note, you step into the shoes of a lender. Your primary income stream from a performing note is the interest accrued from the monthly payments. Particularly in the early years of a mortgage, this interest can constitute a significant chunk of the monthly payment.

Another strategy that might pique your interest is note flipping. Here’s how it works: investors purchase a note at a discounted price and then sell it for a higher value. This approach often involves notes where borrowers have hit a snag with making payments. Investors pick these up at a steep discount, then either negotiate a new deal with the borrower or resort to legal measures to acquire the property. Once they have control of the property or the note begins performing again, they can sell it and pocket the profit.

Buying non-performing notes is another strategy, albeit a riskier one. Once the note is under your ownership, you can work with the borrower to modify the loan terms, making repayment more manageable for them. If a note isn’t being paid, some borrowers might agree to a Deed in Lieu, voluntarily handing over the property to the note holder to avoid a drawn-out foreclosure process. Alternatively, as the investor, you can foreclose on the property and sell it or rent it out.

In cases where the property’s value is less than the amount owed, you could opt for a short sale. The lender might consent to sell the property for a lesser amount and forgive the remaining debt.

Then, there’s the option of partial notes. As an investor, you could buy a portion of a mortgage note, known as a ‘partial.’ This means you’ll receive payments for a specified number of months, after which the right to payments reverts to the original note holder. This strategy can offer a short-term investment opportunity.

Creating notes is another avenue. Some investors might lend money directly, creating owner-financed notes. This allows them to set the terms, interest rates, and other conditions. It’s a method to generate consistent cashflow, mainly if a substantial down payment and competitive interest rates can be secured.

If you have the necessary infrastructure, you could charge a servicing fee for managing the note. This involves handling the administrative aspects of monthly payments, dealing with late fees, and so on.

Finally, let’s touch on pooling notes. Some investors compile a collection of mortgage notes and then sell shares or fractions of this pool to other investors. These pools can also be converted into mortgage-backed securities.

How To Lose Money

Investing in mortgage notes can be rewarding, but it has potential pitfalls.

Firstly, there’s the risk of default. If borrowers fail to make their payments, foreclosure might be the next step. But this process isn’t a walk in the park; it’s time-consuming, expensive, and doesn’t guarantee you’ll recover the total amount owed.

Another concern is a decline in property value. Imagine this: the value of the property underpinning your investment drops significantly, leaving it worth less than the outstanding loan amount. If you foreclose and sell the property, you might need to recoup your initial investment.

A lack of due diligence can also lead to losses. If investors don’t thoroughly vet the borrower’s creditworthiness, the property’s value, or the note terms, they could have a poor investment.

Legal and regulatory issues are another hurdle. Foreclosure laws aren’t uniform; they vary from state to state and can be pretty complex. Navigating these legal challenges during foreclosure can add costs and potentially lead to losses.

And let’s remember poor documentation. If the original note or related documents were poorly drafted, it could complicate matters when the borrower defaults. Unclear terms or missing clauses might even impact an investor’s rights.

Interest rate fluctuations can also impact the value of your investment. If you’re holding a note with a fixed interest rate lower than the current market rate, the value of your note may drop.

Economic downturns bring their own set of challenges. During a recession, the risk of borrowers defaulting skyrockets. Plus, property values can slide, making it harder for investors to recover their investment.

Liquidity risk is another factor to consider. Mortgage notes aren’t as liquid as some other investments. You might have to do so at a discount if you need to sell your notes quickly.

Then, there are the challenges associated with servicing. Collecting payments, managing borrower communications, and dealing with potential modifications can be time-consuming. If these tasks are outsourced to a servicer, additional costs come into play, which could affect your profits.

Competition is another aspect. As the saying goes, everyone loves a winner. So, if an investment opportunity looks profitable, competition can heat up, driving up prices. If investors overpay for a note relative to its risk and potential return, it could dent their profitability.

Changes in tax laws can also impact the profitability of note investments. And lastly, environmental issues related to the property associated with a mortgage note could decrease its value or lead to additional costs and liabilities.

What Are The Positives and Negatives of Mortgage Notes?


Steady Cash Flow: When the borrower makes regular payments, investors receive a consistent monthly income from interest and principal payments.

Collateralized Investment: Unlike some other investments, mortgage notes are backed by real property. If the borrower defaults, the investor has the right to the underlying property and can try to recover their investment by selling it.

Potential for Higher Returns: Particularly with non-performing notes, buying at a significant discount and then turning the note into a performing one or obtaining and selling the property can result in notable returns.

Flexibility in Terms: For investors originating notes or modifying non-performing ones, there’s flexibility in determining the terms, interest rates, and payment structures.

Passive Investment: Once purchased, if the note performs, it requires minimal ongoing management, making it more passive than other real estate investment strategies.

Diversification: Mortgage notes offer a way to diversify a portfolio. They represent a different asset than stocks, bonds, or direct real estate ownership.

Potential for Discounted Purchases: Non-performing notes, in particular, might be purchased for a fraction of their face value, offering a potential upside if the investor can turn the situation around.

Avoiding Property Management: Direct real estate ownership often involves property management, maintenance, dealing with tenants, etc. With note investing, you earn from the property without direct management.

Partial Purchases: Investors can buy only a portion of the note (a “partial”), allowing for shorter-term investments and flexible capital outlay.

Tax Benefits: Depending on jurisdiction and specific situations, the interest income from notes might have certain tax advantages.

Direct Control: Unlike investing in a real estate investment trust (REIT) where you rely on managers, with note investing, you have direct control over your investment decisions.

Potential for Creative Solutions: With non-performing notes, investors can use various strategies like loan modifications, deed in lieu of foreclosure, or short sales. This flexibility can lead to win-win solutions for both the investor and the borrower.


Default Risk: If the borrower fails to make payments, there’s a risk of losing income and going through the hassle and cost of foreclosure.

Decline in Property Value: If the property’s value drops, the collateral backing the loan may be worth less than the loan amount.

Liquidity Concerns: Unlike stocks or bonds, quickly selling mortgage notes can be complex, leading to liquidity problems.

Interest Rate Risk: If market interest rates go up, the value of a fixed-rate note may decrease.

Complexity: Assessing the value and risk of a mortgage note requires understanding real estate and debt markets, which can be complex.

Legal and Regulatory Hurdles: Foreclosure laws, borrower protections, and regulations vary by jurisdiction, and navigating them can be complex and costly.

Servicing Needs: Managing communications, payment collections, and potential modifications with borrowers can be time-consuming and may require outsourcing to a servicer, resulting in additional fees.

Potential for Capital Loss: If the note was purchased close to its face value and the borrower defaults while the property’s value has declined, the investor may not recover their initial investment even after foreclosure.

Economic Factors: Wider economic downturns can impact borrowers’ ability to make payments and depress property values.

Due Diligence Requirement: Before purchasing, extensive research is necessary to evaluate the borrower’s creditworthiness, the property’s value, and the note’s terms, which can be resource-intensive.

Investment Opportunity Filter™

The Investment Opportunity Filter™ evaluates an investment opportunity based on cashflow, tax benefits, appreciation, and the leverage it provides.

Mortgage Notes scores a 3/4 with The Investment Opportunity Filter™.

Mortgage Notes can produce significant cash flow, have limited tax benefits, and you can increase the value through restructuring the note, which will have the note appreciate in value. Mortgage notes also allow leveraging others’ skill sets, capabilities, networks, and capital.


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