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The American Mortgage in Historical and International Context

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  • Richard K. Green
  • Susan M. Wachter

Abstract

The U.S. mortgage before the 1930s would be nearly unrecognizable today: it featured variable interest rates, high down payments and short maturities. The authors compare the form of U.S. home mortgages today with those in other countries. The U.S. mortgage provides many more options to borrowers than are commonly provided elsewhere: American homebuyers can choose whether to pay a fixed or floating rate of interest; they can lock in their interest rate in between the time they apply for the mortgage and the time they purchase their house; they can choose the time at which the mortgage rate resets; they can choose the term and the amortization period; they can prepay freely; and they can generally borrow against home equity freely. They can also obtain home mortgages at attractive terms with very low down payments. The authors discuss the nature of the U.S. government intervention in home mortgage markets that has led to the specific choices available to American homebuyers. They believe that the unique characteristics of the U.S. mortgage provide substantial benefits for American homeowners and the overall stability of the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard K. Green & Susan M. Wachter, 2005. "The American Mortgage in Historical and International Context," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 93-114, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:19:y:2005:i:4:p:93-114
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/089533005775196660
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    1. Ambrose, Brent W. & Buttimer, Richard Jr., 2005. "GSE impact on rural mortgage markets," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 417-443, July.
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    5. Bert Ely, 2004. "How to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," Proceedings 923, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    6. Quercia, Roberto G. & McCarthy, George W. & Wachter, Susan M., 2003. "The impacts of affordable lending efforts on homeownership rates," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 29-59, March.
    7. Andreas Lehnert & Wayne Passmore & Shane Sherlund, 2008. "GSEs, Mortgage Rates, and Secondary Market Activities," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 343-363, April.
    8. Allen Frankel & Jacob Gyntelberg & Kristian Kjeldsen & Mattias Persson, 2004. "The Danish mortgage market," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
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