Portfolio Mortgages: What You Need to Know

Irina Tsymbaliuk
Portfolio Mortgages

Today, the real estate investment market is open to nearly anyone, with many financing options and opportunities. However, when it comes to getting credit for property, all the situations are different, and some borrowers appear to have limited access to mortgages. When applying for a conventional mortgage, borrowers should prove to the lender their ability to make regular payments over the loan’s term. Yet unique financial situations call for a more personalized approach and service. Portfolio financing is designed for this.

Are you a self-employed entrepreneur or a property investor seeking to acquire multiple assets? If so, our guide will get you covered. It will take you through the intricacies and peculiarities of portfolio loans and help you understand how you can benefit from this type of lending.

What Is a Portfolio Loan and How Does It Work?

What Is a Portfolio Loan and How Does It Work?

In a word, a portfolio loan is a type of mortgage that a lender keeps in its own portfolio, hence the name. For a borrower seeking home credit or investment property financing, there is not much difference between conventional mortgages and portfolio home loans. They get an amount of money from a lender for an agreed period under an agreed interest rate.

The key difference, though, is in how a lender treats the loan. Standard loans are normally issued by private lenders that tend to sell them on the secondary market to government entities like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to release funds for further borrowings. This explains quite strict financial requirements for this type of loan, including a credit score, down payment amount, debt-to-income ratio, etc.

Portfolio lenders, on the other hand, don’t need to conform to the secondary market’s stringent guidelines set by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They gain more flexibility in determining their own underwriting rules, borrowing brackets, interest percent they charge, etc. As a result, they have the freedom to create custom loan products tailored to specific borrower needs. Besides retaining a portfolio loan on their books, lenders can hold it as a long-term investment and earn interest over the term of the loan.

Who Are Portfolio Loans for?

This type of loan is particularly suitable for a few categories of borrowers:

  • Real estate investors struggling to meet the stringent criteria for conventional loans or looking to finance multiple properties;
  • Self-employed individuals, freelancers, or anyone with complex or non-traditional income sources;
  • Borrowers with mixed-use properties or those requiring significant renovation;
  • Owners of significant assets but lower documented income;
  • Individuals recovering from past credit issues;
  • Borrowers in need of tailored loan terms that fall outside the standard of conventional mortgage products.

Portfolio Mortgage Benefits and Drawbacks

Portfolio Mortgage Benefits and Drawbacks

Portfolio loans for real estate allow lenders to create customized lending options and cater to niche markets or borrowers with unique financial situations. However, as with any financial product, borrowers should carefully consider the pros and cons of this financing option and assess their own needs and circumstances before choosing it.


  • Customized Loan Terms: Lenders can design loan products to suit specific needs, offering adjustable rates, interest-only payments, or other features that fit the borrower’s unique financial situation.
  • Better Communication and Service: Borrowers deal directly with the lender for the life of the loan, which ensures better customer service and quicker resolution of issues.
  • Personalized Approach: Portfolio lenders are often local banks and institutions. They know the regional market and better understand the borrower’s personal circumstances, leading to potentially more favorable loan decisions and bigger loan amounts approval.
  • More Lenient Credit Requirements: Debtors with less-than-perfect credit scores or shorter credit history may find it easier to obtain a portfolio loan since lenders accept alternative forms of documentation to verify income and assets.


  • Higher Interest Rates: Portfolio lenders tend to charge higher rates (up to 5% above the average market rates) to compensate for higher risks they are exposed to due to handling the loans on their own.
  • Higher Fees: There might be additional fees associated with portfolio loans, such as an origination fee (around 5%) that will increase the final cost of borrowing.
  • Higher Down Payments: To reduce financial risks, lenders can set higher down payment requirements (up to 20%), which may be a barrier for some borrowers.
  • Limited Availability: Not all lenders offer portfolio loans, which can limit options for borrowers. They are typically available through smaller banks, credit unions, and specialized creditors.

Major Risks Associated With a Portfolio Loan

Major Risks Associated With a Portfolio Loan

While higher portfolio loan rates alone might be a concern for those considering this type of credit, there are some more specific risks and considerations that borrowers should also evaluate before committing.

  • Variable Rates: Some loans might be issued based on adjustable rates. This means that the interest rate can bump over time. Increased payments, in turn, can impact the borrower’s ability to budget and manage finances.
  • Prepayment Penalties: If creditors seek to earn some income while handling the loan, they might pose penalties for early repayment. Borrowers looking to refinance or pay off their loan ahead of schedule may face hefty additional costs.
  • Less Regulation: Falling beyond the regulatory oversight of conventional loans, portfolio lending tends to offer fewer consumer protections.
  • Credit Requirements: Despite the overall flexibility of portfolio loans, borrowers with unconventional financial profiles might face stricter evaluation criteria.

Getting a Portfolio Loan: Steps to Take

Getting a Portfolio Loan: Steps to Take

While the qualification process can be more flexible, it may also vary significantly from one lender to another due to different portfolio loan requirements and specific restrictions each creditor might have in place. Anyway, there are a few more or less standard instructions you should follow to qualify for a loan and get the best conditions.

  1. Be aware of your current financial situation: You should start by ensuring you are in an appropriate financial standing for this type of loan. Check your credit report, gather detailed documentation on your income, and calculate your DTI to understand where you are and what financial capabilities you have.
  2. Research and compare lenders: Usually, smaller community banks and private creditors are more likely to issue portfolio loans. Yet, no two lenders are alike. So, compare terms offered by different lenders and monitor their reviews to find a lender that will best align with your financing needs.
  3. Verify a Lender: Don’t forget to check lenders for regulatory compliance. A financial institution should be an FDIC member. Make sure you are going to deal with a licensed entity.
  4. Highlight Your Strengths: Borrowers demonstrating proven substantial savings, investments, or property equity, stable employment, and consistent credit improvement efforts have higher chances of portfolio loan approval.
  5. Be Transparent: Lenders appreciate honesty about your financial situation. Don’t try to hide any challenges you’ve faced. Full disclosure can help build trust and facilitate a smoother application process.


Portfolio loans are a valuable option for borrowers with unique financial needs or property types that do not fit the mold of traditional mortgages, such as fixer-uppers, multi-family homes, mixed assets, or real estate, calling for a larger loan amount. However, to find the best financing solution for their circumstances and squeeze the most out of portfolio lending while avoiding any potential risks and downsides, a borrower should understand the nuances of this type of property credit and carefully weigh all its benefits and downsides.