REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 9, 2017

What Is a Promissory Note?

By David Reiss

by Zoli Erdos

Realtor.com quoted me in What Is a Promissory Note? What You’re Really Promising, Revealed. It opens,

If you get a mortgage to buy a home, you will end up signing something called a promissory note. So what exactly is a promissory note?

In the most basic terms, it’s a legal document you sign containing a written “promise” to pay a lender, says Scott A. Marcus, a shareholder in Becker & Poliakoff’s Real Estate Practice Group, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Promissory notes are a standard part of all real estate financing contracts and include basic information such as:

Promissory notes are an important yet often misunderstood part of the loan process.

“The worst mistake someone signing a promissory note can make is to sign a note without reading and understanding all of its terms,” says Marcus.

So let’s clear up a few common misconceptions, shall we?

Promissory note vs. a mortgage: What’s the difference?

Many home buyers mistakenly think that the mortgage—another contract they sign—is their promise to pay back the loan.

Well, they’re wrong! The promissory note is your promise to do that, plain and simple. The mortgage, on the other hand, is a contract that kicks in more when things go wrong.

In a nutshell, a mortgage (also called a deed of trust) is a pledge you sign to put up your property as collateral in case you default on your loan, according to David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and editor of REFinBlog.com.

In other words, if you suddenly find yourself unable to repay your home loan, your lender will eventually confiscate your property and sell it as a foreclosure to help it recoup its losses from lending you all that money.

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