Friday, October 16, 2009

Why are bad mortgages not renegociated?

As everybody is well aware of, there are plenty of delinquent mortgages in the United States. It is also quite obvious that a home loses substantial value as soon as it is foreclosed, because of homeowner neglect and the fact that it needs to be sold rapidly. Then, why do banks not renegotiate mortgage terms to keep foreclosures from happening. It seems to be in the best interest of banks.

Manuel Adelino, Kristopher Gerardi and Paul Willen wondered about this as well and and a hard look at the data. Specifically, they analyze detailed data on mortgages from Lender Processing Services (LPS). They first reject the standard explanation: whether a mortgage has been securitized or not has no impact on renegotiation.

It turns out that the risk of default after a renegotiation of terms is very high. After all this is why there was renegotiation in the first place. Given the cost of finding new terms, banks simply do not find it worth the trouble. This is similar to the adverse selection problem in insurance. Also, those homeowners who are temporarily in difficulty and will get back on their feet will escape default anyway, and new terms would not change anything.

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