Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR)

Written By:
Paul Tracy
Updated September 30, 2020

What are Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR)?

Mortgage servicing rights (MSR) is an arrangement by which a third party promises to collect and disseminate mortgage payments in exchange for a fee.

How Do Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR) Work?

Mortgage payments are processed continually over the entire term of a mortgage. These ongoing administrative duties -- called MSRs -- include collecting the monthly payments, allocating interest and principal, managing insurance costs and reserving property taxes. Third-party entities often agree to assume a lender's MSR for a fee. 

For example, let's say that John borrows a $100,000 mortgage from Lender ABC. The mortgage has a 30-year term and a fixed rate of 5%. Each month, John sends Lender ABC a payment that includes both interest and principal. Five years into the mortgage, Lender ABC decides that it doesn't want to pay employees to process mortgage payments anymore. Instead, it decides to transfer its MSRs to Company XZY. Under the terms of the agreement, Company XYZ agrees to process all the remaining mortgage payments in exchange for a fee.

Why Do Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR) Matter?

By transferring its MSRs, a mortgage lender can devote more of its resources to originating and disbursing new mortgages. It is important to recognize that the third party that assumes the MSRs does not get to keep the mortgage payments, but passes them back to the lender.