A mortgage is what we get when we need to buy a house but can't afford it outright - as the single biggest purchase in most people's lives, this means that virtually everyone who buys a property has a mortgage of some sort on that property. The most common exception is when someone is downsizing or moving to a house of similar value to one on which they have paid a mortgage, in which case the sale of that asset may mean they can buy the new house outright; the other exception of course is particularly wealthy people.

Financially, a mortgage is called a 'debt instrument'. This gives conditional ownership of the asset (the house) but is secured against the asset. Therefore whilst you think of the house as being yours, it is conditional on keeping up mortgage payments, and if you can't, then the asset could be put up for sale to pay off the debt; repossessions can and do occur on a regular basis.

The interest on the mortgage, as it is such a long term loan - typically around the 25 year mark, means that you actually end up paying a lot more than the mortgage amount. If you mortgage for say £100,000 then you will quite likely end up paying £200,000 in total over the course of those 25 years.

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