Mortgages are typically held by banks or original lenders, but did you know that these debt obligations can be bought and sold on a secondary market? Secondary mortgage notes present a unique investment opportunity for those interested in the real estate lending space. This beginner’s guide will explain what secondary notes are, where they come from, how trading works, key players, and the potential upsides for investors who want to add performing or non-performing notes to their portfolios.


What is a Secondary Mortgage Note Market?

The secondary mortgage note market is where existing mortgage notes are traded between investors. But before we dive into the details of this market, we need to understand exactly what a mortgage note is.

A mortgage note is a legal document containing the terms of a mortgage loan. It states the amount borrowed, interest rate, payment schedule, and other key details.

Banks commonly issue mortgage notes when they lend money for a home purchase. But private lenders or even homeowners can issue a mortgage note when financing a property sale.

After a mortgage note is created in the primary mortgage market, it can then be bought and sold in the secondary mortgage note market. The secondary market allows companies and trusted note buyers to purchase the debt obligations of a mortgage note at a discount or premium price, depending on market conditions. 

The secondary market gives mortgage lenders (original home lenders, private lenders) greater liquidity. And it provides investors access to mortgage note investment opportunities. Notes can be purchased individually or bundled into mortgage-backed securities.

Where Do Secondary Notes Come From?

Secondary notes come from the original mortgage lenders after a loan has been funded and closed. There are a few different reasons why lenders sell off these loans to secondary market investors:

  1. To improve liquidity: The cash from selling the notes can be used to originate more loans. This improves lender cash flow.
  2. To reduce risk: By selling off the notes, lenders transfer the risk of borrower default to the note buyer.
  3. To meet regulatory requirements: Lenders may need to sell loans to rebalance their books and meet capital reserve regulations.
  4. To pool loans into mortgage-backed securities: Loans are bundled and sold to Wall Street to be traded as bonds.

How Secondary Note Trading Works

Once a mortgage note hits the secondary market, there are a few ways it can be traded between investors:

Direct sale

A lender sells the note directly to an investor without a broker. The buyer conducts due diligence on the property and loan details before making an offer.

Brokered sale

More common for one-off note sales. A broker sources notes and connects motivated buyers and sellers. The broker facilitates due diligence and negotiations.

Auction sale

Notes are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Less opportunity for due diligence, but it can result in steep discounts.

Mortgage-backed securities

Loans packaged into an investment product sold on Wall Street. Investors buy shares in the bundle of loans.

Secondary note trading allows buyers to purchase at a discount and profit on the underlying property if the borrower defaults. Performing notes offer interest income potential. Thorough due diligence is critical before purchasing any note.

Key Players in the Secondary Note Market

There are a few main parties involved in the buying and selling of secondary mortgage notes:

Note Brokers

Brokers are an essential conduit for bringing note buyers and sellers together. They have access to inventory and facilitate due diligence. Brokers charge a commission on closed sales.

Mortgage Servicers

Servicers are contracted by note buyers to manage the loan, collect payments, handle escrow accounts, and foreclose if needed. Good servicing helps notes perform.

Note Buyers

The investors who purchase secondary notes fall into two main categories:

  1. Institutional Investors: Large investment funds, REITs, banks, etc. Have capital to buy pools of performing notes.
  1. Private Investors: Individuals or small companies. Often target deeply discounted non-performing notes tied to specific properties.

Working with reputable brokers and servicers is essential for note buyers looking to tap into this unique asset class while minimizing risk.


Secondary mortgage notes allow specialized investors to participate in real estate lending by acquiring discounted debt obligations or earning interest on performing loans. Now that you understand where these notes originate, how trading works, and the key roles of brokers, servicers, and buyers, you can better evaluate if this complex but potentially lucrative asset class has a place in your portfolio. Just conduct thorough due diligence before selling or purchasing any note.