Thursday, December 16, 2010

Foreclosure's Wake: The Credit Experiences of Individuals Following Foreclosure (FRB)

By Kenneth P. Brevoort and Cheryl R. Cooper

Abstract: While a substantial literature has examined the causes of mortgage foreclosure, there has been relatively little work on the consequences of foreclosure for the borrowers themselves. Using a large sample of anonymous credit bureau records, observed quarterly from 1999Q1 through 2010Q1, we examine the credit experiences of almost 350,000 borrowers before and after their mortgage foreclosure. Our analysis documents the substantial declines in credit scores that accompany foreclosure and examines the length of time it takes individuals to return their credit scores to pre-delinquency levels. The results suggest that, particularly for prime borrowers, credit score recovery comes slowly, if at all. This appears to be driven by persistently higher levels of delinquency on consumer credit (such as auto and credit card loans) in the years that follow foreclosure. Our results also indicate that the experiences of individuals whose mortgages entered foreclosure from 2007 to 2009 have followed a similar path to borrowers foreclosed earlier in the decade, though post-foreclosure delinquency rates for the recently foreclosed have been higher and, consequently, credit score recovery appears to be taking longer.

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Strategic Default on First and Second Lien Mortgages During the Financial Crisis

By Julapa Jagtiani and William W. Lang (Philadelphia Fed)

Abstract: Strategic default behavior suggests that the default process is not only a matter of inability to pay. Economic costs and benefits affect the incidence and timing of defaults. As with prior research, the authors find that people default strategically as their home value falls below the mortgage value (exercise the put option to default on their first mortgage). While some of these homeowners default on both first mortgages and second lien home equity lines, a large portion of the delinquent borrowers have kept their second lien current during the recent financial crisis. These second liens, which are current but stand behind a seriously delinquent first mortgage, are subject to a high risk of default. On the other hand, relatively few borrowers default on their second liens while remaining current on their first. This paper explores the strategic factors that may affect borrower decisions to default on first vs. second lien mortgages. The authors find that borrowers are more likely to remain current on their second lien if it is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) as compared to a closed-end home equity loan. Moreover, the size of the unused line of credit is an important factor. Interestingly, they find evidence that the various mortgage loss mitigation programs also play a role in providing incentives for homeowners to default on their first mortgages.

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Mortgage Servicing (Adam Levitin and Tara Twomey)

Abstract: This Article argues that a principal-agent problem plays a critical role in the current foreclosure crisis. A traditional mortgage lender decides whether to foreclose or restructure a defaulted loan based on its evaluation of the comparative net present value of those options. Most residential mortgage loans, however, are securitized. Securitized mortgage loans are managed by third-party mortgage servicers as agents for mortgage-backed securities ("MBS") investors.

Servicers‘ compensation structures create a principal-agent conflict between them and MBS investors. Servicers have no stake in the performance of mortgage loans, so they do not share investors‘ interest in maximizing the net present value of the loan. Instead, servicers‘ decision of whether to foreclose or modify a loan is based on their own cost and income structure, which is skewed toward foreclosure. The costs of this principal-agent conflict are thus externalized directly on homeowners and indirectly on communities and the housing market as a whole.

This Article reviews the economics and regulation of servicing and lays out the principal-agent problem. It explains why the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP") has been unable to adequately address servicer incentive problems and suggests possible solutions, drawing on devices used in other securitization servicing markets. Correcting the principal-agent problem in mortgage servicing is critical for mitigating the negative social externalities from uneconomic foreclosures and ensuring greater protection for investors and homeowners.

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