What Is Seller Financing?

10 Min Read
Updated Feb. 23, 2024
man with calculator
Written By Victoria Araj

Seller financing, also referred to as owner financing, is an arrangement where the seller of a property acts as the lender instead of a bank or another financial institution. Buyers make payments directly to the seller, effectively cutting out any intermediary.

As straightforward as this arrangement may sound, it can come with a lot of nuance. And it can be more complicated than obtaining traditional financing. We’ll help you understand how seller financing works, its pros and cons and the implications of different seller financing transactions.

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How Does Seller Financing Work?

Seller financing works like any traditional mortgage transaction, except the seller extends the financing rather than a bank or mortgage lender. Unlike a traditional mortgage closing, the only money the seller receives at closing is the amount negotiated for a down payment – if any.

You and the current homeowner negotiate the details of a mortgage note that says you’ll pay the loan back to them.The document specifies the interest rate you’ll pay on the loan and your repayment schedule.

What Happens If You Default On Your Payments?

With a traditional mortgage, there’s a separate document in addition to the mortgage note – the mortgage itself. The mortgage outlines the penalties if its repayment terms are violated.

When your home purchase is financed by a seller, the consequences for defaulting may be laid out in the mortgage note or a separate document. Depending on the laws where the real estate transaction happened, the consequences can include:

  • Loss of property
  • Forfeiture of payments
  • Legal action against the buyer

And those are only some risks from defaulting on your payment. In short, avoid defaulting on any payments, including seller-financed arrangements.

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Is Seller Financing A Good Idea?

Owner financing has pros and cons for both the buyer and seller. Let’s run through the advantages and disadvantages.

Buyer Pros And Cons

Here’s a list of seller financing advantages and disadvantages for buyers:


  • It allows borrowers who may not qualify for a traditional mortgage to finally get one.
  • The closing process may be quicker and cheaper.
  • Down payment amounts are negotiable with seller financing, unlike traditional mortgages.
  • You may not be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • It can buy you time to get your credit and broader financial picture in order before applying for a traditional loan.


  • Because the seller is taking on risk by financing the purchase, they typically charge a higher interest rate than standard mortgages. For this reason, if you can qualify for a traditional mortgage, that may be a better option.
  • Many seller financing agreements require balloon payments, which means paying off the remaining loan balance at the end of the loan term with a larger-than-average lump-sum payment. Because the final payment can be a significant financial burden, buyers in seller-financed agreements typically try to secure traditional financing before the balloon payment is due.
  • If the seller doesn’t report your on-time payments to one of the three major credit bureaus, you won’t see an improvement in your credit score.
  • You likely won’t be afforded the same protections you’d get with a traditional mortgage. Depending on the terms of your contract and local laws, a seller may be able to evict you after one late payment.


Seller Pros And Cons

If you’re a seller, financing a borrower’s home purchase has benefits and potential downfalls, including:


  • Sellers can sell their homes faster and at a price of their choosing. You don’t have to wait for final approval on your purchase price, the outcome of an appraisal, etc.
  • Buyer payments can serve as an additional passive income stream.
  • You can set a higher interest rate than you would earn on other investments.


  • By providing seller financing, you assume the entire investment risk. Consider that the reason someone is asking for seller financing is likely because they can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage.
  • If you have a mortgage, you’ll need to obtain your lender’s approval before seller financing to avoid the consequences of a due-on-sale
  • If the buyer defaults on the terms of the loan, you must initiate the eviction or foreclosure proceedings. Depending on where you live, this may be easier in some states than others.
  • A resident facing eviction may neglect to maintain the property. Factor in house repair and renovation costs ifyou plan on taking the property
  • When selling to a buyer with a traditional mortgage, you may wait longer to close the deal – but you get a lump-sum check at closing. With seller financing, you don’t receive as much money upfront and must count on monthly installment payments to repay the loan.

Types Of Seller Financing Agreements

There are several types of seller financing agreements between buyers and sellers. We’ll touch on them here.

Seller-Financed Mortgage

Several types of seller-financed mortgages may apply, and each type of agreement functions like traditional financing. Here’s a breakdown of what you might see:

Properties Owned Free And Clear

In the simplest scenario, the seller has paid off their home, and the seller and buyer work out the terms of the down payment, the final purchase price, the loan term (when the loan will be paid off) and the interest rate. The seller pockets the entire repayment amount.

All-Inclusive Trust Deed (AITD)

In an AITD, the seller pays down the existing mortgage with the buyer’s loan repayments. This arrangement is also known as a wraparound mortgage. In addition to paying down the existing mortgage, the seller pockets any amount over and above the mortgage’s cost and the down payment.

There are risks for both the buyer and seller in an AITD.

For the seller, it’s important to note that most mortgages contain a due-on-sale clause, which allows the seller’s mortgage lender to demand full payment on the mortgage as soon as a property is sold. Enforcing the due-on-sale clause would defeat the purpose of the wraparound mortgage, which is to use the buyer’s repayments to pay your monthly mortgage payment. Buyers also assume risk. If the seller doesn’t pay the underlying mortgage, the mortgage lender can repossess the home.

Junior Mortgage

A seller can help finance a real estate transaction by taking out a junior mortgage, also called a second mortgage. The seller can cover the down payment, which the buyer repays separately from the property’s primary mortgage. It’s important to note that many traditional lenders won’t allow this type of arrangement.

Lease-Option Agreements

Another type of seller financing involves rent-to-own agreements. In a rent-to-own agreement, you rent a property at above-market rates. In exchange, some of the money you pay toward rent is usually set aside for a rent credit, which can go toward your down payment and a traditional mortgage down the line.

One type of rent-to-own arrangement is a lease-option agreement. Under a lease-option agreement, you have the right to purchase the property at the end of the lease agreement. But you’re under no obligation to purchase the property.

Lease-Purchase Agreement

The main difference between a lease-option and a lease-purchase agreement is that, with a lease-purchase agreement, you must buy the property at the end of the lease.

There should be two concerns for the buyer. First, you need to feel sure that you really like the property and can seeyourself living there permanently. And second, you’ll want to have your financing lined up before the lease term expires. You’ll need to get your credit in order and be ready when the time comes. Make sure you know what penalties you may face if you decide not to move ahead with the purchase at the end of the lease.

Land Contracts

A land contract, also known as a seller-financed mortgage, can be a straight contract because the property is owned free and clear or a wraparound contract because there’s an existing mortgage on the property.

With most land contracts, you don’t receive the title to the property right away. The seller retains the legal title to the property until you have paid them in full.

Although you won’t get the legal title immediately, you do gain equitable title. With each payment you make to the seller, you gain financial equity in the property.

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Alternatives To Seller Financing

Many people choose seller financing because they have difficulty qualifying for a traditional mortgage or have a small amount of money saved for a down payment. If you find yourself in less-than-ideal financial circumstances, consider other available options.

Government Home Loans

If you have difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan, a government-backed home loan may be easier to qualify for. They often have lower credit score and down payment requirements. Click on the links below to learn more about these mortgages.


Down Payment Assistance

Coming up with funds for a down payment is a common challenge for prospective home buyers, especially first-time home buyers. Fortunately, you may discover many down payment assistance programs where you live.

It’s also worth asking your lender if they offer promotions to help with down payment or closing costs.

Improve Your Credit Score

Although it can be hard to wait, patience is a valuable trait. Locking yourself into an unfavorable seller financing agreement may lead to short-term gains that spiral into long-term negative consequences.

Improving your credit score and waiting until you qualify for conventional financing requires discipline but can be a better way to plan for your future.

FAQs About Seller Financing

Take your time to consider different financing options and gather as much information as you can. We’ve put together some common questions about seller financing.

What are typical terms for seller financing?

The loan terms will depend entirely on what’s negotiated between the two parties. In general, seller financing usually has higher interest rates than other loan types, shorter repayment periods and a potential balloon payment at the end of the loan term.

Does seller financing count toward your credit score?

Seller financing can count toward your credit score if the seller reports your payments to one of the three major credit bureaus, but reporting payments isn’t required.

Who holds the title with seller financing?

Usually, the seller retains the title until the property has been paid off in full.

Is seller financing worth it?

It can be worth it if the priority for both parties is to close a deal fast. However, both the buyer and seller face potential downsides. A buyer will likely get better interest rates with traditional financing options. And a seller opens themselves up to considerably more risk and gets less money upfront.

The Bottom Line: Seller Financing Isn’t Your Only Option

One of the advantages of seller financing is that it can be a good option for buyers with less-than-ideal credit. One ofthe disadvantages is that you won’t get the same protections you’d get with a traditional mortgage. As a seller, you can earn a higher interest rate than you would on many other investments, but you assume all the risks of the transaction.

If you can, it’s always better for buyers to qualify for a traditional mortgage because they have lower interest rates and offer more favorable terms. If you want to buy a home or refinance out of your current seller financing agreement, apply online today to jump-start the process. 

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