Mortgage vs. Deed of Trust: What is the Difference?

Why does it Matter?

*We do not offer legal advice, please consult a professional

When a borrower receives a loan to buy real estate, he/she agrees to pay the lender a certain amount of money according to the terms of the promissory note. To secure this debt the lender will require either a Mortgage or Deed of Trust instrument. This is primarily determined by the state you live in and will heavily influence the foreclosure process. It is extremely important for every real estate investor to understand the rules and instruments their state uses.

The main difference between a Mortgage and a Deed of Trust is that the Mortgage document lists only the borrower and the lender as interested parties, while the Deed of Trust instrument adds a third person titled as the Trustee.


When a Mortgage is used to secure real estate, the loan must be completely repaid before it can be sold. The lender will hold the lien for the property until the borrower has satisfied the loan agreement.  In Mortgage States (aka Lien Theory States), the lender can begin foreclosure when the borrower defaults on his/her loan. However, the lender will need to file a lawsuit to begin the foreclosure proceedings and the entire process must go through the courts, beginning with the filing of Lis Pendens. This is known as a Judicial Foreclosure and can prove to be quite costly and time-consuming (often six months or more!).

Deed of Trust

When a Deed of Trust is used, the courts can be bypassed. Instead, a Trustee will be appointed within the document at closing. The borrower transfers title to the Trustee for the benefit of the lender and remains in trust until the note is paid off. In the case of default, the Trustee is responsible for starting the foreclosure process.  Often, the first step of this process is the filing of an Appointment of Substitute Trustee because the original named trustee is not local to the property.  This is known as a Non-Judicial Foreclosure and generally requires less time to complete (sometimes as little as two months).

Real estate can be a lucrative investment, but it is imperative that you, as an investor, know the laws of your land. Understanding the documents and legal procedures used in real estate transactions for your state can help better prepare you for any situation that may arise. Finding a lender you can trust and building a knowledgeable team will prove its worth time and time again.

Investor Loan Source, a hard money lending company, provides high-quality investment property loans to private real estate investors at the lowest costs possible. Our process for providing real estate investors with private lending is unique. We place emphasis on the hard asset and value of the collateral (property) and less on the borrower. Our asset-based real estate investment loan model means we can provide more money lending to more investors than is available from standard bank loan models. At Investor Loan Source, providing real estate investors hard money loans is our business; it’s all we do. We offer several business real estate loans products designed to serve a variety of investors and property profiles, including hard money lending for properties to sell on owner finance. 

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