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Choosing Between Fixed and Adjustable Rate Mortgages


  • Paiella, Monica
  • Pozzolo, Alberto Franco



This paper estimates the determinants of households’ choice between fixed rate (FRM) and adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) contracts, using the Bank of Italy’s Survey of Household Income and Wealth. Contrary to the predictions of the theoretical literature, the analysis shows that most household characteristics proxying for exposure to other (non-mortgagerelated) risks and for individual risk aversion are irrelevant for the choice. This, in turn, crucially depends on the relative price of the mortgages and on whether the household is liquidity constrained. Liquidity constrained households find ARMs particularly attractive because their initial payments are generally lowest, ceteris paribus. This is so despite some evidence that the premium that lenders charge over their cost of funds is substantially higher on ARMs than on FRMs. Taken together, the evidence suggests that ARM holders do not fully take into account the risk of a rise of the reference interest rates. On the other hand, lenders price quite expensively this risk and borrowers end up paying a high price for the benefit of low initial payments.

Suggested Citation

  • Paiella, Monica & Pozzolo, Alberto Franco, 2007. "Choosing Between Fixed and Adjustable Rate Mortgages," Economics & Statistics Discussion Papers esdp07033, University of Molise, Dept. EGSeI.
  • Handle: RePEc:mol:ecsdps:esdp07033

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Y. Campbell & João F. Cocco, 2003. "Household Risk Management and Optimal Mortgage Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1449-1494.
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    5. Jappelli, Tullio & Pistaferri, Luigi, 2000. "Using subjective income expectations to test for excess sensitivity of consumption to predicted income growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 337-358, February.
    6. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias, 2009. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
    7. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio & Terlizzese, Daniele, 1996. "Income Risk, Borrowing Constraints, and Portfolio Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 158-172, March.
    8. Pelizzon, Loriana & Weber, Guglielmo, 2008. "Are Household Portfolios Efficient? an Analysis Conditional on Housing," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 401-431, June.
    9. Fabbri, Daniela & Padula, Mario, 2004. "Does poor legal enforcement make households credit-constrained?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 2369-2397, October.
    10. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio, 2000. "Household Portfolios in Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2549, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. James M. Poterba, 2001. "Taxation and Portfolio Structure: Issues and Implications," NBER Working Papers 8223, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Engelhardt, Gary V., 1996. "House prices and home owner saving behavior," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3-4), pages 313-336, June.
    13. Marjorie Flavin & Takashi Yamashita, 2002. "Owner-Occupied Housing and the Composition of the Household Portfolio," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 345-362, March.
    14. Tullio Jappelli & Luigi Pistaferri, 2002. "Incentives to Borrow and the Demand for Mortgage Debt: An Analysis of Tax Reforms," CSEF Working Papers 90, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    15. Brueckner, Jan K & Follain, James R, 1988. "The Rise and Fall of the ARM: An Econometric Analysis of Mortgage Choice," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 93-102, February.
    16. Silvia Magri, 2002. "Italian households' debt: determinants of demand and supply," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 454, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tullio Jappelli & Annalisa Scognamiglio, 2016. "Monetary Policy, Mortgages and Consumption: Evidence from Italy," CSEF Working Papers 454, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    2. Guiso, Luigi & Sodini, Paolo, 2013. "Household Finance: An Emerging Field," Handbook of the Economics of Finance, Elsevier.
    3. repec:ukb:journl:y:2017:i:242:p:28-48 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Roberto Felici & Elisabetta Manzoli & Raffaella Pico, 2012. "Crisis and Italian households: a microeconomic analysis of mortgage contracts," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 125, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    5. Dietsch, Michel & Petey, Joël, 2015. "The credit-risk implications of home ownership promotion: The effects of public subsidies and adjustable-rate loans," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 103-120.
    6. Beer, Christian & Ongena, Steven & Peter, Marcel, 2010. "Borrowing in foreign currency: Austrian households as carry traders," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(9), pages 2198-2211, September.

    More about this item


    home purchase finance; adjustable rate mortgages; fixed rate mortgages.;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • G1 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • E4 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates

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