Finding out what company or entity owns or backs (guarantees) your mortgage loan isn't always simple. Your loan might have been sold, perhaps several times since you took it out with the original lender. And the company that services the loan might not own the underlying debt.
Here's how to figure out who holds or guarantees your mortgage.
What Is a Mortgage Servicer?
The first step in determining who owns or backs your mortgage is identifying your loan servicer. The servicer might be the same as the holder (owner) of the debt, but not always. Mortgage holders often retain a servicer, which might or might not be a lending institution, to handle the loan.
The servicer deals with the day-to-day management of the loan. For instance, the servicer:
- collects and processes your monthly payments
- tracks your account balance
- manages the escrow account, if you have one, and
- supervises the foreclosure process, if you're in default.
Who Is Your Mortgage Servicer?
Here are a few different ways that you can find out the identity of your loan servicer.
- You can check your monthly mortgage billing statement. Your servicer is the company that sends you the bill for your payment.
- Look at your payment coupon book, if you have one. The servicer will be listed.
- Call the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (MERS) Servicer Identification System toll-free at 888-679-6377 or visit the MERS website. Your mortgage servicer's identity will be listed in the MERS system if you have a MERS loan.
Understanding Mortgage Holders and Guarantors
A mortgage holder, more accurately called a "note holder" or simply the "holder," is the owner of your loan. The holder has the right to enforce the loan agreement. The loan agreement consists of:
The holder of the note is the only party that has the legal right to collect the debt—and foreclose on the property—if you don't make payments.
A guarantor, or mortgage backer, is an entity, like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Administration (VA), that guarantees the holder will get paid if the borrower defaults.
Who Is Your Mortgage Holder or Backer?
Here are a few different ways to find out the identity of your mortgage holder or backer.
- The easiest option is to call the servicer and ask who holds or backs your loan. That's why you first need to figure out who your servicer is.
- You can also send a qualified written request to your servicer asking who owns or guarantees the loan.
- If your loan is in the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), you might be able to find out who owns or backs your loan by calling MERS or running a check on the MERS website.
- Check the Fannie Mae lookup tool and Freddie Mac loan-lookup tool online to find out if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns your loan. Many loans are sold to these government-sponsored enterprises.
- You could look for an FHA case number on your mortgage contract. Sometimes, though, loans lose their FHA-insured status. Call your servicer or HUD's National Servicing Center at 877-622-8525 if you have questions about your loan's status. You can also check your billing statement to see if you pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP). MIP is what FHA calls its mortgage insurance. If you're paying MIP, then you have an FHA-insured loan.
- VA-guaranteed loans contain specific language in the note and mortgage that identify it as a VA loan. Also, fees paid to the VA will be shown in the closing documents.
- Borrowers with mortgages directly extended by the USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) should be aware that they have this kind of loan. But homeowners with privately serviced RHS-guaranteed loans might not know about their loan's status. To find out if you have an RHS-guaranteed loan, ask the servicer or check your closing documents from when you took out the loan. To learn more, go to the USDA Rural Development website.
Reasons Why You Might Need to Know the Identity of the Servicer, Holder, or Backer
The following examples are just a few scenarios where you'll want to know who services, holds, or backs your mortgage.
- If you need general information about your loan account—like the monthly payment amount, the next due date, or late fee information—you'll have to call your servicer.
- If you've fallen behind on your payments and want to negotiate an alternative to foreclosure, like a loan modification, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure, you need to contact your servicer.
- If you're having trouble making your payments and want to apply for assistance under your state's Hardest Hit Fund program (if one is still open), you should contact your servicer to ensure it participates in the program.
- Different backers offer different loss mitigation options to borrowers.
- If you're a homeowner in foreclosure, you'll want to know the holder. If you think that the foreclosing party doesn't actually own your loan, you might have a defense to the foreclosure. You'll most likely need an attorney to help you review your ability to raise this kind of defense and argue it in court.