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Contagious Mortgage Default


  • Børsum, Øystein

    (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)


This paper analyses the default option typical to American mortgages. House-holds borrow to buy durable housing, but future house prices are uncertain, and households find it advantageous to default on their debt if house prices fall suffi- ciently. A key assumption of the model is that households are relegated to the rental market upon default, and that there is a small pecuniary inefficiency (“iceberg cost”) in renting. This leads defaulters to substitute consumption of other goods for housing; that is, the demand for housing falls upon default. Consequently, when some households default, aggregate demand for housing is reduced, hence house prices fall more, possibly inciting other households to default. This complementarity is a source of multiple equilibria, and a price externality. Using a specific case for which an analytical solution can be derived, I show that contagion is possible: it may be that the default of a minority (interpretable as sub-prime borrowers) spreads to a majority (interpretable as prime borrowers).

Suggested Citation

  • Børsum, Øystein, 2010. "Contagious Mortgage Default," Memorandum 10/2010, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2010_010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gervais, Martin, 2002. "Housing taxation and capital accumulation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(7), pages 1461-1489, October.
    2. Jeske, Karsten & Krueger, Dirk & Mitman, Kurt, 2011. "Housing and the Macroeconomy: The Role of Bailout Guarantees for Government Sponsored Enterprises," CEPR Discussion Papers 8624, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Adelino, Manuel & Gerardi, Kristopher & Willen, Paul S., 2013. "Why don't Lenders renegotiate more home mortgages? Redefaults, self-cures and securitization," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(7), pages 835-853.
    4. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2009. "Moral and Social Constraints to Strategic Default on Mortgages," Economics Working Papers ECO2009/27, European University Institute.
    5. Yongheng Deng & John M. Quigley & Robert Van Order, 2000. "Mortgage Terminations, Heterogeneity and the Exercise of Mortgage Options," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 275-308, March.
    6. Morris A. Davis & Francois Ortalo-Magne, 2011. "Household Expenditures, Wages, Rents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 248-261, April.
    7. Foote, Christopher L. & Gerardi, Kristopher & Willen, Paul S., 2008. "Negative equity and foreclosure: Theory and evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 234-245, September.
    8. James Peck & Karl Shell, 2003. "Equilibrium Bank Runs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 103-123, February.
    9. Chatterjee, Satyajit & Eyigungor, Burcu, 2009. "Foreclosures and house price dynamics: a quantitative analysis of the mortgage crisis and the foreclosure prevention policy," Working Papers 09-22, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
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    More about this item


    Housing demand; Mortgage market; Default risk; Multiple equilibria Contagion;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand

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