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Making Sense of the Subprime Crisis

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Author Info

  • Kristopher Gerardi
  • Andreas Lehnert
  • Shane M. Sherlund
  • Paul Willen

Abstract

This paper explores the question of whether market participants could have or should have anticipated the large increase in foreclosures that occurred in 2007 and 2008. Most of these foreclosures stemmed from loans originated in 2005 and 2006, leading many to suspect that lenders originated a large volume of extremely risky loans during this period. However, the authors show that while loans originated in this period did carry extra risk factors, particularly increased leverage, underwriting standards alone cannot explain the dramatic rise in foreclosures. Focusing on the role of house prices, the authors ask whether market participants underestimated the likelihood of a fall in house prices or the sensitivity of foreclosures to house prices. The authors show that, given available data, market participants should have been able to understand that a significant fall in prices would cause a large increase in foreclosures although loan-level (as opposed to ownership-level) models would have predicted a smaller rise than actually occurred. Examining analyst reports and other contemporary discussions of the mortgage market to see what market participants thought would happen, the authors find that analysts, on the whole, understood that a fall in prices would have disastrous consequences for the market but assigned a low probability to such an outcome.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution in its journal Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

Volume (Year): 39 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (Fall) ()
Pages: 69-159

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Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:39:y:2008:i:2008-02:p:69-159

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Related research

Keywords: macroeconomics; subprime crisis; foreclosures; market; risk factors;

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References

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  1. Morris A. Davis & Andreas Lehnert & Robert F. Martin, 2008. "The Rent-Price Ratio For The Aggregate Stock Of Owner-Occupied Housing," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 54(2), pages 279-284, 06.
  2. Anthony Pennington-Cross & Giang Ho, 2010. "The Termination of Subprime Hybrid and Fixed-Rate Mortgages," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 38(3), pages 399-426.
  3. Foote, Christopher L. & Gerardi, Kristopher & Willen, Paul S., 2008. "Negative equity and foreclosure: Theory and evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 234-245, September.
  4. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing high house prices: bubbles, fundamentals, and misperceptions," Staff Reports 218, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. Yongheng Deng & John M. Quigley & Robert Van Order, 2000. "Mortgage Terminations, Heterogeneity and the Exercise of Mortgage Options," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 275-308, March.
  6. Deng, Yongheng & Gabriel, Stuart, 2006. "Risk-Based Pricing and the Enhancement of Mortgage Credit Availability among Underserved and Higher Credit-Risk Populations," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(6), pages 1431-1460, September.
  7. Christopher L. Foote & Kristopher Gerardi & Lorenz Goette & Paul S. Willen, 2008. "Subprime facts: what (we think) we know about the subprime crisis and what we don’t," Public Policy Discussion Paper 08-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  8. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 1987. "Prices of Single Family Homes Since 1970: New Indexes for Four Cities," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 851, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  9. Musto, David K. & Souleles, Nicholas S., 2006. "A portfolio view of consumer credit," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 59-84, January.
  10. Benjamin J. Keys & Tanmoy Mukherjee & Amit Seru & Vikrant Vig, 2010. "Did Securitization Lead to Lax Screening? Evidence from Subprime Loans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 307-362, February.
  11. Joshua D. Coval & Jakub W. Jurek & Erik Stafford, 2009. "Economic Catastrophe Bonds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 628-66, June.
  12. Michelle A. Danis & Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2005. "The delinquency of subprime mortgages," Working Papers 2005-022, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  13. Mark Doms & Fred Furlong & John Krainer, 2007. "Subprime mortgage delinquency rates," Working Paper Series 2007-33, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  14. Coleman IV, Major & LaCour-Little, Michael & Vandell, Kerry D., 2008. "Subprime lending and the housing bubble: Tail wags dog?," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 272-290, December.
  15. Joseph G. Haubrich & Deborah Lucas, 2007. "Who holds the toxic waste? An investigation of CMO holdings," Policy Discussion Papers, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Jun.
  16. Lucas, Deborah & McDonald, Robert L., 2006. "An options-based approach to evaluating the risk of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 155-176, January.
  17. Joshua Gallin, 2006. "The Long-Run Relationship between House Prices and Income: Evidence from Local Housing Markets," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 34(3), pages 417-438, 09.
  18. Jonathan McCarthy & Richard W. Peach, 2004. "Are home prices the next "bubble"?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Dec, pages 1-17.
  19. Kristopher Gerardi & Adam Hale Shapiro & Paul S. Willen, 2007. "Subprime outcomes: risky mortgages, homeownership experiences, and foreclosures," Working Papers 07-15, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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