What is a Junior Mortgage?

A junior mortgage is a loan secured by the equity in a house. Equity equals the value of the house less the balance owed on the homeowner's first (or in some cases, preceding) mortgages. Junior mortgages are not the same as home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

How Does a Junior Mortgage Work?

Junior mortgages are very similar in concept to traditional mortgages. For example, junior mortgages generally must be repaid over a fixed period. Some lenders may offer fixed rates on these loans; others might offer variable rates.

Like first mortgages, most banks will also charge points and other fees for generating the junior mortgage (attorney fees, title fees, insurance and documentation fees, for example), and these costs vary by bank. In some cases, the lender might charge a fee if the borrower prepays the loan. And because the loan is secured by a house, if the borrower defaults, the lender may foreclose on the house.

Why Does a Junior Mortgage Matter?

Junior mortgages can be viable options when compared to credit cards or other high-interest, unsecured loans. In addition, mortgage interest is tax deductible, making the interest rates on junior mortgages sometimes lower than they appear when one considers the tax savings.

However, not all junior mortgages are created equally. Borrowers are well served to compare fees, interest rates and repayment terms among lenders. After all, when a borrower defaults, his or her home could end up belonging to the bank for good.

[If you're ready to buy a home, use our Mortgage Calculator to see what your monthly principal and interest payment will be.]