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On conventional loans, a 'second mortgage' is a lien on a property which is subordinate to a more senior lien. Called lien holders positioning the second mortgage falls behind the first mortgage.
When refinancing, if the homeowner wants to refinance the first mortgage and keep the second mortgage, the homeowner has to request a subordination from the second lender to let the new first lender step into the first lien holder position.
A second mortgage can be structured as a fixed amount to be paid off in a specific time, called home equity term. They can also be structured like a credit card giving the borrower the option to make a payment less than the interest charged each month.
Second mortgages are riskier for lenders and thus generally come with a higher interest rate than first mortgages. This is because if the loan goes into default, the first mortgage gets paid off first before the second mortgage. Commercial loans can have multiple loans as long as the equity supports it.
Due to lender guidelines, it is rare for conventional loans for a property having a third or fourth mortgage.
In the terms of foreclosure, a second lien holder can start the foreclosure process when a homeowner stops making payments. The second lien holder has to satisfy the first mortgage balance before they could collect on the second mortgage balance.
In situations when a property is lost to foreclosure and there is little or no equity, the first lien holder has the option to request a settlement for less with the second lien holder to release the second mortgage from the title. Once the second lien holder releases themselves from the title, they can come after the homeowner in civil court to pursue a judgement. At this point, the only option available to the homeowner is to accept the judgment or file bankruptcy.
Generally, when considering the application for a second mortgage, lenders will look for the following:
- Significant equity in the first mortgage
- Low debt-to-income ratio
- High credit score
- Solid employment history