Handing Over the Keys: A Perspective on Mortgage Default Research

  • Vandell K
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This paper is the text of the 1992 Presidential Address for the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association. A comparative evaluation of mortgage default research finds that both the residential and commercial markets evolved from informal underwriting rules, to formalized (though unvalidated) ratios and rules of thumb, to early risk ratings based upon empirical evidence, to gener-alizable econometric models of default, to option-based pricing models. The commercial market lagged the residential market by about 10 to 20 years at first but is now only about five years behind. The survey finds that research and progress in understanding mortgage credit risk has been precipitated by a public policy need or mandate, data availability, and adequate technology. The absence of any one of these factors has hindered progress in the past. Finally, six emerging issues in default research are identified and discussed: (1) the degree of "ruth-lessness" with which default is exercised, (2) loan recourse, (3) the magnitude and timing of revenues and losses associated with default, (4) loan modification, (5) default in a portfolio context, and (6) leasehold default. Progress in these areas will enhance the efficiency of both the residential and commercial markets.

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  • Kerry D. Vandell

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