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How do mortgage refinances affect debt, default, and spending? Evidence from HARP
We use quasi-random access to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to identify the causal effect of refinancing a mortgage on borrower balance sheet outcomes. We find that on average, refinancing into a lower-rate mortgage reduced borrowers' default rates on mortgages and nonmortgage debts by about 40 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Refinancing also caused borrowers to expand their use of debt instruments, such as auto loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and other consumer debts that are proxies for spending. All told, refinancing led to a net increase in debt equal to ...
Crowding Out Effects of Refinancing on New Purchase Mortgages
We present evidence that binding mortgage processing capacity constraints reduce mortgage originations to borrowers of low to modest credit quality. Mortgage processing capacity constraints typically bind when the demand for mortgage refinancing shifts outward, usually because of lower mortgage rates. As a result, high capacity utilization leads mortgage lenders to ration mortgage credit, completing mortgages that require less underwriting resources, and are thus less costly, to produce. This is hypothesized to have a particularly adverse impact on the ability of low- to modest-credit-quality ...
Consumer Mistakes and Advertising : The Case of Mortgage Refinancing
Does advertising help consumers to find the products they need or push them to buy products they don't need? In this paper, we study the effects of advertising on consumer mistakes and quantify the resulting effect on consumer welfare in the market for mortgage refinancing. Mortgage borrowers frequently make costly refinancing mistakes by either refinancing when they should wait, or by waiting when they should refinance. We assemble a novel data set that combines a borrower's exposure to direct mail refinance advertising and their subsequent refinancing decisions. Even though on average ...
Evaluating the Benefits of a Streamlined Refinance Program
Mortgage borrowers who have experienced employment disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are unable to reﬁnance their loans to take advantage of historically low market rates. In this article, we analyze the eﬀects of a streamlined reﬁnance (“reﬁ”) program for government-insured loans that would allow borrowers to reﬁnance without needing to document employment or income. In addition, we consider a cash-out component that would allow borrowers to extract some of the substantial housing equity that many have accumulated in recent years.