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Do You Have a Deed if You Have a Mortgage? Understanding Property Ownership and Mortgages

Buying a home is an exciting milestone in life. However, the process of buying real estate can also be complex, especially when it comes to legal ownership of the property. Many homeowners wonder if they truly own their home if they have a mortgage. The answer lies in understanding the relationship between a mortgage and a deed.

deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of real estate from the seller to the buyer. It contains key information like the legal description of the property, the names of the grantor and grantee, and is signed by the grantor before a notary public. The deed gets recorded with the county recorder’s office to make the transfer of ownership official.

When you have a mortgage, you do not receive the actual deed to the property; it goes to the lender or escrow company as security. However, you still retain certain ownership rights and are considered an equitable title holder. Full ownership transfers to you once the mortgage is paid off and the lender releases their lien on the property.

mortgage is a loan used to finance the purchase of real estate. With a mortgage, the lender provides funds to the buyer to purchase the property. In return, the buyer makes scheduled payments with interest over a set period, usually 15-30 years. The mortgage gives the lender a lien on the property as collateral until the loan is fully repaid. 

How Does a Mortgage Work?

During the closing process, the seller signs over the deed to the property to transfer ownership to the buyer. However, the buyer does not get the actual deed. Instead, it goes to the lender or third-party escrow company acting on behalf of the lender. This gives the lender security, as they legally own the titleuntil the mortgage is satisfied.

The buyer still retains certain ownership rights and takes possession of the home. But the lender holds rights too, like being able to foreclose if the borrower defaults on payments. The buyer is considered an equitable title holder.

Does Having a Mortgage Mean You Don’t Own Your Home?

You do not fully own your home outright if you have a mortgage, but you still have some ownership interest. Once the mortgage is paid off, full ownership transfers to the homeowner. At that point, the lender releases the deed and has no further claims to the property. Think of a mortgage as shared ownership between you and the lender until the loan is repaid.

Can You Have a Deed Without Having Paid Off Your Mortgage?

Yes, you can have a copy of the deed before paying off your mortgage in full. The deed is still valid and was signed over to you during closing. However, it does not give you sole ownership rights. The lender’s rights take priority until you satisfy the mortgage.

Some lenders will provide homeowners with a copy of the deed while the mortgage is still active. You can also request a copy from the county records office. Just because you have the deed does not mean you have the full title. It is evidence you purchased the property but not outright ownership.

What Happens to the Deed When You Pay Off Your Mortgage?

Once you make the final mortgage payment, full ownership transfers over to you as the homeowner. At this point, the lender has to release their lien and interest on the property. 

To make this official, the lender will record a document known as a satisfaction of mortgage with the county on public record. This shows the mortgage is paid off and they no longer have a claim to the property. 

The lender also has to release the original deed to you. This signed over titlegives you full ownership rights. Be sure to file the deed with the local records office to have clear title to your home.

What Are the Different Types of Deeds?

There are several common types of deeds used in real estate transactions. The most important distinctions between deed types relate to title guarantees and warranties.

1. Warranty Deeds

This provides the greatest protection for buyers. The seller guarantees they hold clear title and have the right to sell the property. It warrants the property is free of any encumbrances and defects. Breaching these guarantees risks legal and financial penalties.

2. Quitclaim Deeds

Offers no guarantees about the status of title or property. It simply transfers any interest the grantor has in the property without warranties. This avoids claims against the grantor but gives the grantee less protection.

3. Special Warranty Deeds

The grantor warrants title only for the time they personally held interest in the property. No guarantees about previous ownership claims or issues.

4. Bargain and Sale Deeds

Implies the grantor holds title to the property but makes no guarantees. Requires the grantee perform a title search to uncover any defects.

5. Grant Deeds

Used in some states, this implies the grantor holds an interest in the property at time of sale. It guarantees nothing about title defects arising later.

How Can You Get a Copy of Your Property’s Deed?

If you need a copy of your property’s deed and do not have one, there are a few options:

  • Contact your lender or closing agent to see if they will provide a copy from their records.
  • Check with the county recorder’s office and request a copy for a small fee. The deed must be registered publicly.
  • Hire a title company to do a title search and retrieve a copy of the most recent recorded deed. This costs more but provides other title insights.
  • Search the county recorder website, some provide online records access. Find your property and request/print the deed copy.
  • As part of the closing process, ask for a copy of the deed to be provided along with your other important documents. 

What Is the Difference Between a Title and a Deed?

The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings:

  • deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of real estate from the seller to the buyer. It records the sale with the county.
  • title is the legal right to own, possess, and control a property. It encompasses the abstract concept of ownership rather than a physical document.

The deed provides record of transfer from one owner to the next. Title is the intangible right granted by the deed. The deed provides evidence of title.

Who Holds the Title When There Is a Mortgage?

The lender holds legal title as a security interest until the mortgage is satisfied. At the same time, the homeowner holds equitable title and limited ownership rights like possession. Once the mortgage is paid off, full legal title transfers to the homeowner.

When Do You Get the Title to Your House?

You receive full legal title once the mortgage is paid in full and the lender releases their lien on the property. At closing, equitable title transfers over to you as the buyer. But the lender holds onto the deed until you satisfy the loan. Their legal title takes priority over your rights. 

Don’t confuse having a copy of the deed with outright ownership. Work with your lender to ensure the deed and title get transferred over to you after paying off your mortgage. Record the necessary documentation to have clear title.

Can Someone Else Hold the Title While I Pay the Mortgage?

Yes, it is possible to have a different person or entity hold legal title while you pay the mortgage. Common situations include:

  • Parents gifting a home but retaining title until you pay off the mortgage.
  • Investors who buy rental properties titled under an LLC while the tenant pays rent to cover the mortgage. 
  • Trusts holding title to avoid probate when the beneficiary lives in the home and pays the mortgage.
  • Co-ownership with family or a spouse where one party holds title for tax or estate purposes.

Consult professionals to ensure proper paperwork and permissions are in place. Retaining title does not override your legal rights as the mortgage payer and equitable owner.


While a mortgage is active on a property, full ownership does not rest solely with the homeowner. The lender retains legal title until the loan is satisfied. But equitable title and some ownership rights belong to the borrower making mortgage payments. Once paid off, the lender must release their claim by transferring over the deed and legal title. Understanding the relationship between deeds, titles, and mortgages is key to homeownership.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does it mean if I am on the mortgage but not the deed?

If someone is on the mortgage but not the deed, it means that they are responsible for paying the mortgage, but do not own the property. The individual is usually listed as a borrower on the mortgage, but not as an owner on the deed. This type of arrangement can be beneficial for both parties, as it allows the borrower to have a financial interest in the property without taking on the full responsibility of ownership.

How do I get a deed to my house in Illinois?

In Illinois, obtaining a deed to your house is a straightforward process. First, you must contact the local county recorder’s office and request a copy of the deed. You will need to provide proof of ownership, such as a tax bill or mortgage statement, and pay a small fee. Once the deed has been obtained, you can register it with the county recorder’s office to make it official. Additionally, you can use an online service such as DeedClaim to help you with the process.

What does a deed look like in PA?

A deed in Pennsylvania typically contains the names of the grantor and grantee, the date of the deed, a legal description of the property, and the signature of the grantor. It is typically written on a standard-sized 8.5×11 inch paper and is signed in the presence of a notary public. The deed is then recorded in the county recorder’s office where the property is located.