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By Ralph RobertsRISMEDIA, September 6, 2007-The origin of the word “mortgage” is intriguing. It is a French word generally believed to be derived from two Latin words-“mort” (meaning death) and “gage” (meaning pledge or something of value that’s forfeited if the debt is not repaid). Does this mean we can blame the current mortgage meltdown on the French? No, I didn’t think so.

Although your clients might feel as though they are signing their life away when they take out a mortgage, that’s not really what the word means. The part of the word dealing with death applies to the passing away of the agreement. When the homeowner eventually pays off the loan, the lender’s claim to the property is “dead.” If the homeowner fails to make payments in accordance with the mortgage, the homeowner’s rights to the property cease to exist (or die).

A mortgage is a contract that enables people to purchase property without paying the full value upfront. In essence, a mortgage pledges the property to the lender (the mortgagee) in the event that the borrower (the mortgagor) fails to repay the debt according to the conditions stipulated in the mortgage.

Although a mortgage is the most common way to finance the purchase of a property, it is not the only way. The seller can also finance the purchase of the property by way of a Land Contract or Contract for Deed. Instead of allowing the lender to place a lien against the property, a Land Contract or Contract for Deed typically contains a forfeiture clause. The clause states that if the loan is not repaid in full, the property reverts to the possession of the seller (the person who financed the purchase).

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, mortgages actually have little to do with death, unless, of course, you take out a mortgage to buy a funeral parlor. Mortgages have more to do with life-being able to purchase a home you cannot afford to pay cash for, so you can enjoy your life sometime before you hit your golden years.

Ralph R. Roberts, official spokesperson for Guthy-Renker Home and author of “Flipping Houses For Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons), can be contacted at 586.751.0000, or by e-mail at To learn more about Ralph, investing in real estate, and protecting yourself against real estate and mortgage fraud, visit, and