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The incentives of mortgage servicers: myths and realities

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Author Info

  • Larry Cordell
  • Karen Dynan
  • Andreas Lehnert
  • Nellie Liang
  • Eileen Mauskopf

Abstract

As foreclosure initiations have soared over the past couple of years, many have questioned whether mortgage servicers have the right incentives to work out troubled subprime mortgages so that borrowers can avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes. Some critics claim that because servicers, unlike investors, do not bear the losses associated with foreclosure, they have little incentive to modify troubled loans by reducing interest rates or principal, or by extending the term. Our analysis suggests that while servicers have substantially improved borrower outreach and increased loss mitigation efforts, some foreclosures still occur where both borrower and investor would benefit if such an outcome were avoided. We discuss servicers’ incentives and the obstacles to working out delinquent mortgages. We find that loss mitigation is costly for servicers, in large part because servicers currently lack adequate staff and technology; unfortunately, servicers have few financial incentives to expand capacity. Two additional factors appear to be damping workouts of nonprime loans, the group that has seen the largest increase in delinquencies. First, affordable solutions are more difficult to achieve for borrowers with these loans than for those with prime mortgages. Second, these loans are generally funded by private-label mortgage backed securities, for which investors provide little or no guidance to servicers about what modifications are appropriate. More generally, investors are wary that modifications might turn out to be unsuccessful, thus delaying and increasing ultimate losses. Given the significant deadweight losses incorporated in recent quarters’ loss rates of 50 percent or more, we present options for further improving servicer performance. We discuss supporting further industry efforts to expand borrower outreach and establish servicing guidelines, educating investors, paying servicers fees for appropriate loan workouts, and improving measures of servicer performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2008-46.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2008-46

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Related research

Keywords: Mortgage loans ; Subprime mortgage;

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Cited by:
  1. Christopher Foote & Kristopher Gerardi & Lorenz Goette & Paul Willen, 2010. "Reducing Foreclosures: No Easy Answers," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2009, Volume 24, pages 89-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Swagel, Phillip, 2009. "The financial crisis: an inside view," MPRA Paper 21104, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Zhang, Yan, 2013. "Does loan renegotiation differ by securitization status? A transition probability study," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 513-527.
  4. Goodman, Allen C. & Smith, Brent C., 2010. "Residential mortgage default: Theory works and so does policy," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 280-294, December.
  5. Vikrant Vig & Amit Seru & Tomasz Piskorski, 2009. "Securitization and Distressed Loan Renegotiation: Evidence from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis," 2009 Meeting Papers 1169, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Michelle J. White, 2008. "Bankruptcy: Past Puzzles, Recent Reforms, and the Mortgage Crisis," NBER Working Papers 14549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Been, Vicki & Weselcouch, Mary & Voicu, Ioan & Murff, Scott, 2013. "Determinants of the incidence of U.S. Mortgage Loan Modifications," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 3951-3973.
  8. Evridiki Tsounta, 2011. "Home Sweet Home," IMF Working Papers 11/191, International Monetary Fund.
  9. Christopher J. Mayer & Karen M. Pence & Shane M. Sherlund, 2008. "The rise in mortgage defaults," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2008-59, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Wenli Li & Michelle J. White, 2009. "Mortgage Default, Foreclosure, and Bankruptcy," NBER Working Papers 15472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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