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Access to Refinancing and Mortgage Interest Rates: HARPing on the Importance of Competition

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Abstract

We explore a policy-induced change in borrower ability to shop for mortgages to investigate whether market competitiveness affects mortgage interest rates. Our paper exploits a discontinuity in the competitive landscape introduced by the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP). Under HARP, lenders that currently service loans eligible for refinancing enjoyed substantial advantages over their potential competitors. Using a fuzzy regression discontinuity design, we show a jump in mortgage interest rates precisely at the HARP eligibility threshold. Our results suggest that limiting competition raised interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages by 15 to 20 basis points, translating into higher lender profits. The results are distinct from documented effects of consolidation and capacity reduction in mortgage lending and are robust to a number of sample restrictions and estimation choices. We interpret our findings as evidence that increases in pricing power lead to higher interest rates in mortgage markets.

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  • Gene Amromin & Caitlin Kearns, 2014. "Access to Refinancing and Mortgage Interest Rates: HARPing on the Importance of Competition," Working Paper Series WP-2014-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-2014-25
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sumit Agarwal & Gene Amromin & Itzhak Ben-David & Souphala Chomsisengphet & Tomasz Piskorski & Amit Seru, 2017. "Policy Intervention in Debt Renegotiation: Evidence from the Home Affordable Modification Program," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(3), pages 654-712.
    2. Steven Laufer, 2018. "Equity Extraction and Mortgage Default," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 28, pages 1-33, April.
    3. Donghoon Lee & Christopher Mayer & Joseph Tracy, 2012. "A New Look at Second Liens," NBER Chapters, in: Housing and the Financial Crisis, pages 205-234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi & Francesco Trebbi, 2015. "Foreclosures, House Prices, and the Real Economy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 70(6), pages 2587-2634, December.
    5. Andreas Fuster & Paul S. Willen, 2017. "Payment Size, Negative Equity, and Mortgage Default," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 167-191, November.
    6. Agarwal, Sumit & Amromin, Gene & Ben-David, Itzhak & Chomsisengphet, Souphala & Evanoff, Douglas D., 2011. "The role of securitization in mortgage renegotiation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(3), pages 559-578.
    7. Guido Imbens & Karthik Kalyanaraman, 2012. "Optimal Bandwidth Choice for the Regression Discontinuity Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(3), pages 933-959.
    8. Christopher Mayer & Edward Morrison & Tomasz Piskorski & Arpit Gupta, 2014. "Mortgage Modification and Strategic Behavior: Evidence from a Legal Settlement with Countrywide," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2830-2857, September.
    9. Piskorski, Tomasz & Seru, Amit & Vig, Vikrant, 2010. "Securitization and distressed loan renegotiation: Evidence from the subprime mortgage crisis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(3), pages 369-397, September.
    10. Benjamin J. Keys & Tomasz Piskorski & Amit Seru & Vincent Yao, 2014. "Mortgage Rates, Household Balance Sheets, and the Real Economy," NBER Working Papers 20561, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Janice Eberly & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2014. "Efficient Credit Policies in a Housing Debt Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 49(2 (Fall)), pages 73-136.
    12. Mayer, Chris & Piskorski, Tomasz & Tchistyi, Alexei, 2013. "The inefficiency of refinancing: Why prepayment penalties are good for risky borrowers," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(3), pages 694-714.
    13. John Y. Campbell & Stefano Giglio & Parag Pathak, 2011. "Forced Sales and House Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2108-2131, August.
    14. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 307-362.
    15. Agarwal, Sumit & Amromin, Gene & Ben-David, Itzhak & Chomsisengphet, Souphala & Zhang, Yan, 2014. "Second Liens and the Holdup Problem in Mortgage Renegotiation," Working Paper Series 2014-02, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
    16. Janice Eberly & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2014. "Efficient Credit Policies in a Housing Debt Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 45(2 (Fall)), pages 73-136.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marco Di Maggio & Amir Kermani & Christopher Palmer, 2016. "How Quantitative Easing Works: Evidence on the Refinancing Channel," NBER Working Papers 22638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Jason Allen & Shaoteng Li, 2020. "Dynamic Competition in Negotiated Price Markets," Staff Working Papers 20-22, Bank of Canada.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mortgage crisis; market competition; pricing power; HARP;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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