Did prepayments sustain the subprime market?
This paper demonstrates that the reason for widespread default of mortgages in the subprime market was a sudden reversal in the house price appreciation of the early 2000's. Using loan-level data on subprime mortgages, we observe that the majority of subprime loans were hybrid adjustable rate mortgages, designed to impose substantial financial burden on reset to the fully indexed rate. In a regime of rising house prices, a financially distressed borrower could avoid default by prepaying the loan and our results indicate that subprime mortgages originated between 1998 and 2005 had extremely high prepayment rates. However, a sudden reversal in house price appreciation increased default in this market because it made this prepayment exit option cost-prohibitive.
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