Bonds offer some protection against the volatility and risk of stocks. Unlike stocks, investing in a bond makes you a creditor of the bond issuer, and you’ll have a high ranking claim on assets if the issuer defaults on the bond’s payment terms. Bonds fall under two categories: secured and unsecured. A mortgage bond is a type of secured bond, while a debenture bond is an unsecured bond.
While a mortgage bond is backed by collateral, typically real estate, a debenture bond does not require such guarantees.
Characteristics of a Mortgage Bond
A mortgage bond is a type of secured bond because the bond is backed by collateral. The collateral is usually real estate or some other type of property that is subject to a mortgage. In the event of a bond default, you can foreclose and sell the property tied to the bond to collect your investment. Due to their direct claim on company assets, a mortgage bond is a safer and higher quality investment with a lower risk of default than a debenture bond.
Example of a Mortgage Bond
An example of a mortgage bond is a commercial mortgage bond. These bonds are tied to loans for commercial property that can range from a major hotel to a mall in a small town. In 2017, $86.4 billion in U.S. commercial mortgage bonds were issued, a substantial increase from 2016’s $68.1 billion. The first quarter of 2018 saw the issuance of commercial mortgage backed bonds already topping $19 billion. If you remove 2007’s all time high of $230.5 billion and the extraordinary lows from 2008-2011 from the equation, average growth rates became the new "norm" during this period.
Characteristics of a Debenture Bond
A debenture, or unsecured, bond is not backed by property. The bond issuer’s credit standing supports the promise that the bond’s payment terms will be met. Debenture bonds are issued when a company does not have enough assets to serve as collateral.
If a company is well established and has a high credit rating, issuing debenture bonds is an easy way for them to raise funds. Debenture bonds typically carry more risk than mortgage bonds and must pay a higher interest rate to investors. If a company liquidates, debenture bondholders are paid after mortgage bondholders.
Example of a Debenture Bond
An example of a debenture bond is the U.S. government’s Treasury bond. These bonds are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and are available in a variety of maturity periods, ranging from one month to 30 years. Unlike debenture bonds issued by private businesses, this type of debenture bond is not considered high risk due to the federal government's ability to create money, if it needs to, to meet payment terms.