What are mortgage backed securities?

What are mortgage backed securities?

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Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are financial instruments that are created by pooling together a large number of individual mortgages and selling them to investors. These securities have become an important component of the global financial markets, providing investors with an opportunity to invest in the housing market indirectly. In this article, we will dive deeper into the concept of mortgage-backed securities, exploring their structure, benefits, and risks.

Structure of Mortgage-Backed Securities

Mortgage-backed securities are created through a process called securitization. It involves the conversion of individual mortgages into tradable securities. Here’s a breakdown of the typical structure of mortgage-backed securities:

Originators: Financial institutions such as banks or mortgage companies originate individual mortgages by lending money to homebuyers.

Aggregators: These entities purchase a large number of individual mortgages from originators and pool them together.

Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV): The pooled mortgages are transferred to an SPV, which is a separate legal entity created solely for the purpose of issuing mortgage-backed securities.

Tranches: The SPV divides the mortgage pool into different tranches based on the risk and return characteristics. Each tranche represents a different level of risk and is sold to different investors.

Interest and Principal Payments: Homeowners make monthly mortgage payments, which are then passed through to the investors who hold the corresponding tranche. These payments include both interest and principal portions.

Benefits of Mortgage-Backed Securities

Mortgage-backed securities offer several benefits to both investors and homeowners:

Diversification: Investors can gain exposure to a diversified pool of mortgages, reducing the risk associated with investing in a single mortgage.

Yield: Mortgage-backed securities typically offer higher yields compared to other fixed-income investments, attracting investors seeking income generation.

Liquidity: The secondary market for mortgage-backed securities is highly liquid, allowing investors to buy or sell these securities easily.

Access to Homeownership: By providing a market for mortgage loans, mortgage-backed securities help facilitate homeownership by ensuring a steady flow of funds for new mortgages.

Risks of Mortgage-Backed Securities

While mortgage-backed securities offer benefits, they also come with certain risks:

Interest Rate Risk: Changes in interest rates can impact the value of mortgage-backed securities. When interest rates rise, the value of existing mortgage-backed securities may decline.

Prepayment Risk: Homeowners have the option to prepay their mortgages, which can impact the cash flows to investors. If homeowners refinance or sell their homes, investors may receive their principal earlier than expected.

Default Risk: The risk of homeowners defaulting on their mortgage payments poses a risk to investors. In the event of defaults, investors may experience losses.


Mortgage-backed securities play a crucial role in the financial markets, providing investors with exposure to the housing market and homeownership. By securitizing individual mortgages, these securities offer benefits such as diversification, yield, and liquidity. However, they also come with risks, including interest rate risk, prepayment risk, and default risk. Understanding the structure and risks associated with mortgage-backed securities is essential for investors looking to participate in this market.


– Investopedia: www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mbs.asp
– Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: www.frbsf.org/education/publications/doctor-econ/2004/march/mortgage-backed-securities/
– U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsintro_mbshtm.html

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