11–13 minutes to read

Can you find out how much someone owes on their mortgage?

Can you find out how much someone owes on their mortgage?

When I began making offers on owner occupied homes listed in the MLS, one of the things I wish I could find was the amount someone owed on their mortgage.

The idea was simple, if I could find out the amount they owed, and could offer a little bit above this amount, I would increase the chances of my offer being accepted.

Unfortunately, I could never find this information.

The exact amount someone owes is private and this information is held by the servicing institution and the seller.

Short of talking to the seller himself, and getting him to give you the information, there is no direct way to find out how much someone owes on their mortgage.

Even if you knew the beginning balance of the mortgage, the seller could have made extra payments, missed payments, or stopped making payments, altogether.

For all you know, the seller could be saving up the amount they should be paying to their lender so they can, in turn, use the money to move to another location.

So, unless this information is directly communicated to you by the seller, you won’t be able to use this information to start your bid.

The only time you’ll know exactly home much someone owes on their mortgage prior to transferring the property in your name is after your closing company receives a loan payoff amount from the seller’s loan servicer. If you’re at this point, it’s safe to assume that you’ve already made an offer on the property.

This means that you’ll have to learn how to do some ninja financing in order to get a best estimate of how much someone owes on their mortgage.

How to estimate how much someone owes on their mortgage?

1. Find out the original mortgage price.

Luckily, many counties in different States have at least the original mortgage balance listed on the deed of trust. This information is the required starting point to make a best guest estimate. Surprisingly, the seller’s deed of trust is public on many county’s Register of Deeds’ website.

For example, you can find the original mortgage price of a home I purchased in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2011 by accessing Mecklenburg County’s Register of Deeds. Let’s see how this is done:

Go to Mecklenburg County’s Register of Deeds site. Once on the website, and after acknowledging their terms of service, search for the Real Estate Document Access link.

As you’ll see on the site, you can search for information about a property using several different search options. If you use the Combined Name Search field and search for my actual last name, [Clayton], followed by my first name [Romeo], several documents will be uncovered.

property records screen shot

Under the documents, instrument number 2011105857, is the record deed of trust on my property.

deed-of-trust

If you click through it, page 2 of the recorded deed of trust shows information about the note. The amount of the note is $101,150.00.deed-of-trust-note

This is the amount I owed on my mortgage in September 2011.

**If you don’t know the seller’s name, your county may have a search option for the property’s address. Mecklenburg has this information on a separate site called their Mecklenburg County Real Estate Lookup tool. Put in the property’s address and you’ll find the name of the last owner.

2. Find out the year that the note is due in full.

On the same recorded deed of trust in the Note Section, the full amount of my note was due on October 1, 2041. This was 30 years after the date of the recording which means it’s safe to assume that I had a 30 year mortgage. The only thing to determine at this point was whether my interest rate was fixed or variable.

3. Determine if the rate is fixed, adjustable, or has a balloon payment.

If the mortgage rate was anything different than a fixed rate, you’ll usually notice this in the “Riders” section on the Deed of Trust. For example, my deed of trust would have had either the adjustable rate rider or balloon rider box checked on the Rider section. It does not, so it’s safe to now assume that I had a 30 year fixed rate mortgage product.

Now, the only thing to estimate is the interest rate attached to the note.

4. Estimate the interest rate based on historical data.

Once you know the original mortgage amount, the date the mortgage is due in full, and the mortgage rate product, the rest becomes an educated guessing game. To make the best educated guess, you can use historical mortgage rate data from an online site that tracks this information such as Mortgage Daily News. Using the date that the deed of trust was recorded, September 22, 2011, you’ll see various mortgage rates during the month of  September.

In September 2011, mortgage rates averaged 4.25%. So, this is the number you could use.

**My actual interest rate was 4.0%, so turns out this would have been a great guess.

5. Back calculate a best fit mortgage payment into a loan amortization calculator.

Using the information from above, you can now use any loan amortization calculator to determine an estimate of the current mortgage balance, with a few caveats.

  • Caveat #1: Ensure a second mortgage doesn’t exist. If it does, you’ll have to repeat the process and add this amount to the first mortgage.
  • Caveat #2: Realize that early payments could have been made or that payments could have been missed.
  • Caveat #3: Make sure you’re looking at the correct real estate documents, including the most recent recorded deed of trust.

Luckily, Excel comes with a great, free template for estimating how much someone owes on their mortgage.

In Microsoft Excel, go to File, New, and you’ll see the Loan Amortization Schedule template in the Template Section. If you don’t see it, a quick Microsoft Office Template search will bring it up.

Download the file, open it, and plug in the information you’ve found.

This gives an estimated scheduled payment and a break down of the ending balance on the mortgage after each monthly payment is made.

how-to-determine-mortgage-balance

6. Estimate the remaining mortgage amount.

Using the information you put into the Excel template, if you wanted to purchase the property in September 2013, you’ll see that there was a mortgage balance remaining of $97,665.59.

If you compare this number to the one that uses my actual interest rate of 4.0%, you’ll see that you’d be pretty close.  My actual remaining balance in September 2013 was $97,514.85. My estimate would have only been off by $150.

how-to-determine-mortgage-amount-2

All the Information to Estimate Someone’s Mortgage Payment May Be Public

In some rare cases, all the information you need to estimate someone’s amortization schedule may be public.

When I refinanced my property in 2013 with a new lender, I received a new Deed of Trust recorded as instrument# 2013152507.

deed-of-trust-2

However, the Adjustable Rate Rider was also recorded with the deed of trust.

And on the Adjustable Rate Rider, the interest rate was recorded showing an adjustable rate of 3%, the way the rate adjusts, and the limits on the rate. Couple this with the amount of the loan on page 2 of this Deed of Trust and one can easily calculate what my monthly payment was.

new-amortization-schedule

Conclusion

Using information that is likely already public in your county, you can calculate an estimate of what someone may owe on their mortgage. You can use this information to your advantage by making a purchase offer that’s low enough to save you money but high enough to not offend the seller, assuming he wants to get a price that is at least over his current mortgage principal balance.

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