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Saving Your Home in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

  • Michelle J. White
  • Ning Zhu
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This paper examines how filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 helps financially distressed debtors save their homes. We develop a model of debtors' decisions to default on their mortgages and file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 and evaluate the model using new data on Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers. We also examine the effect of allowing bankruptcy judges to reduce debtors' mortgage payments, i.e., introducing "cram-down" of mortgages in Chapter 13. We find that 96% of Chapter 13 filers are homeowners and 79% of filers repay mortgage debt in their repayment plans; while just 9% of filers repay only unsecured debt in their plans. These results suggest that filers use Chapter 13 almost exclusively as a "save-your-home" procedure. But under current law, only about 1% Chapter 13 filers save their homes when they would otherwise have defaulted. If cram-down were introduced, we predict that this fraction would increase to 10%. The cost to lenders of introducing cram-down is estimated to be $264,000 per home saved and $30 billion in total.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14179.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14179.

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Date of creation: Jul 2008
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Publication status: published as "Saving Your Home in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy," with Ning Zhu. NBER working paper 14179. Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 39:1, pp. 33-61, January 2010
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14179
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  1. White, Michelle J, 1998. "Why Don't More Households File for Bankruptcy?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 205-31, October.
  2. Adam B. Ashcraft & Astrid A. Dick & Donald P. Morgan, 2007. "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act: means-testing or mean spirited?," Staff Reports 279, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. White, M.J., 1998. "Why Don't More Households File for Bankruptcy?," Papers 98-03, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  4. Hülya Eraslan & Wenli Li & Pierre-Daniel Sarte, 2007. "The anatomy of U.S. personal bankruptcy under Chapter 13," Working Papers 07-31, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  5. Scott Fay & Erik Hurst & Michelle J. White, 2002. "The Household Bankruptcy Decision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(3), pages 706-718, June.
  6. Sarah W. Carroll & Wenli Li, 2008. "The homeownership experience of households in bankruptcy," Working Papers 08-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  7. Berkowitz, Jeremy & Hynes, Richard, 1999. "Bankruptcy Exemptions and the Market for Mortgage Loans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 809-30, October.
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