A mortgage is a method of using property (real or personal) as security for the payment of a debt.
The term mortgage (from Law French, lit. death vow) refers to the legal device used in securing the property, but it is also commonly used to refer to the debt secured by the mortgage, the mortgage loan.
In most jurisdictions mortgages are strongly associated with loans secured on real estate rather than other property (such as ships) and in some cases only land may be mortgaged. Arranging a mortgage is seen as the standard method by which individuals and businesses can purchase residential and commercial real estate without the need to pay the full value immediately. See mortgage loan for residential mortgage lending, and commercial mortgage for lending against commercial property.
In many countries it is normal for home purchases to be funded by a mortgage. In countries where the demand for home ownership is highest, strong domestic markets have developed, notably in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
At common law, a mortgage was a conveyance of land that on its face was absolute and conveyed a fee simple estate, but which was in fact conditional, and would be of no effect if certain conditions were not met --- usually, but not necessarily, the repayment of a debt to the original landowner. Hence the word "mortgage," Law French for "dead pledge;" that is, it was absolute in form, and unlike a "live gage", was not conditionally dependent on its repayment solely from raising and selling crops or livestock, or of simply giving the fruits of crops and livestock coming from the land that was mortgaged. The mortgage debt remained in effect whether or not the land could successfully produce enough income to repay the debt. In theory, a mortgage required no further steps to be taken by the creditor, such as acceptance of crops and livestock, for repayment.
The difficulty with this arrangement was that the lender was absolute owner of the property and could sell it, or refuse to reconvey it to the borrower, who was in a weak position. Increasingly the courts of equity began to protect the borrower's interests, so that a borrower came to have an absolute right to insist on reconveyance on redemption. This right of the borrower is known as the "equity of redemption".
This arrangement, whereby the mortgagee (the lender) was on theory the absolute owner, but in practice had few of the practical rights of ownership, was seen in many jurisdictions as being awkwardly artificial. By statute the common law position was altered so that the mortgagor would retain ownership, but the mortgagee's rights, such as foreclosure, the power of sale and the right to take possession would be protected.
In the United States, those states that have reformed the nature of mortgages in this way are known as lien states. A similar effect was achieved in England and Wales by the Law of Property Act 1925, which abolished mortgages by the conveyance of a fee simple.
Like any other legal system, the mortgage business sometimes uses confusing jargon. Below are some terms explained in brief. If a term is not explained here it may be related to the mortgage loans rather than to the legal process.
Conveyance This is the legal document that transfers ownership of unregistered land.
Disbursements These are all the fees of the solicitors and governments, such as stamp duty, land registry, search fees, etc.
Freehold This means the ownership of a property and the land.
Land Registration This is a legal document that records the ownership of a property and land. This is also known as a Title.
Leasehold This means the ownership of the property and land for a specified period, which may be sold separately from freehold, which may be owned by another person.
Legal Charge This is a legal document that records the data of the rightful owner of a property or land.
Mortgage Deed This is a legal document that stated that the lender has a legal charge over the property.
Sealing Fee This is a fee made when the lender releases the legal charge over the property.