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Mortgage contract choice in subprime mortgage markets

  • Gregory Elliehausen
  • Min Hwang
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    The boom in the subprime mortgage market yielded many loans with high LTV ratios. From a large proprietary database on subprime mortgages, we find that choice of mortgage rate type is not linear in loan sizes. A fixed rate mortgage contract is a popular choice when loan size, measured by LTV ratio, is small. As LTV ratio increases, borrowers become more likely to choose adjustable rate mortgage contracts. However, when LTV reaches a certain level, borrowers start to switch back to fixed rate contracts. For these high LTV loans, fixed rate mortgages dominate borrowers' choices. We present a very simple model that explains this "nonlinear" pattern in mortgage instrument choice. The model shows that the choice of mortgage rate type depends on two opposing effects: a "term structure" effect and an "interest rate volatility" effect. When the loan size is small, the term structure effect dominates: rising LTV ratios making ARM loans less costly, and more attractive. However, when the loan size is large enough, the interest volatility effect dominates: rising LTV ratios making FRM loans less costly and preferable. We present strong empirical evidence in support of the model predictions.

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    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2010-53.

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    Date of creation: 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2010-53
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    1. Francois Ortalo-Magne & Sven Rady, 1998. "Boom In, Bust Out: Young Households and the Housing Price Cycle," Finance 9810004, EconWPA, revised 25 Oct 1998.
    2. Matteo Iacoviello, 2005. "House Prices, Borrowing Constraints, and Monetary Policy in the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 739-764, June.
    3. Dohmen, Thomas, 2000. "Housing, Mobility and Unemployment," IZA Discussion Papers 210, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Ortalo-Magné, François & Rady, Sven, 2001. "Housing Market Dynamics: On the Contribution of Income Shocks and Credit Constraints," CEPR Discussion Papers 3015, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. A. Yavas, 2001. "Do Riskier Borrowers Borrow More?," ERES eres2001_301, European Real Estate Society (ERES).
    6. Posey, Lisa L. & Yavas, Abdullah, 2001. "Adjustable and Fixed Rate Mortgages as a Screening Mechanism for Default Risk," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 54-79, January.
    7. Brent Ambrose & Anthony Sanders, 2004. "Legal Restrictions in Personal Loan Markets," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 133-151, November.
    8. Koijen, Ralph S.J. & Hemert, Otto Van & Nieuwerburgh, Stijn Van, 2009. "Mortgage timing," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 292-324, August.
    9. Brent W. Ambrose & Michael LaCour-Little & Anthony B. Sanders, 2004. "The Effect of Conforming Loan Status on Mortgage Yield Spreads: A Loan Level Analysis," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 32(4), pages 541-569, December.
    10. Newey, Whitney K., 1987. "Efficient estimation of limited dependent variable models with endogenous explanatory variables," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 231-250, November.
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