October 4, 2022

The Correlation Between Incomes And Default Rates

The Marginalization Of Risk

The massive number of loan defaults that has put the entire banking industry on the brink on insolvency did not happen by accident.   Banks recklessly extended credit, even to low income borrowers who obviously had the least ability to service their debts.   What may have seemed like a virtuous circle of increased consumer consumption and  higher banking profits has turned into a debt disaster for both borrower and lender – consider the Democratization of Credit.

WSJ -The recession has forced a financial reckoning for Americans across the income spectrum. The pressure is especially acute for the low-income Americans who relied on borrowing for daily expenses or to gain the trappings of middle-class life. Shifting credit practices over several decades had enabled them to live beyond their means by borrowing nearly as readily as the more affluent.

But the financial crisis and recession have reversed what some economists dubbed the “democratization of credit,” forcing a tough adjustment on both low-income families and the businesses that serve them.

“We saw an extension of credit to a much deeper socioeconomic level, and they got access to the same credit instruments as middle-class and mainstream Americans,”…

The financial crisis has forced lenders to be especially cautious with the riskiest borrowers, a category that low-income families often fall into because their debt tends to be higher relative to income and assets.

Some are turning to wherever they can for credit. A publicly traded pawnshop chain, EZCorp., reported a 37% rise in revenue in the second quarter. “With credit limited and other options disappearing, there are people looking for somewhere they can get emergency cash,” said David Crume, president of the National Pawnbrokers Association.

Cash-strapped workers have long obtained advances through “payday loans,” available at storefront lenders for fees that equate to high annual interest rates. Even that move is not so easy now.

“More customers are walking in the door, but turndowns are up,” said Steven Schlein, a spokesman for the payday-loan industry’s trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America.

The Journal article also includes a chart showing that the combined delinquency and default rate for lower income groups dramatically exceeds that of higher income groups.  Are lower income groups inherently a poorer credit risk or did lenders create the conditions for default by recklessly granting credit in excess of a borrower’s ability to repay?

The Journal article perhaps should have more appropriately been titled “the marginalization of risk”.   Banks failed miserably in executing their basic mission – lending prudently based on a borrower’s ability to service the debt.   Regulators failed miserably by allowing banks to make inherently unsound loans.  Did the bankers really believe the income numbers supplied by borrowers who “stated” their income?  What were the regulators thinking when they allowed banks to lend money without considering a borrower’s income, such as with “no doc” loans?

The long term adverse economic consequences of reckless lending are now obvious – the bigger tragedy is that it was allowed to happen in the first place.

“Liar Loans” – RIP – October 1, 2009

Liar Loans To Be Prohibited

No income verification and stated income mortgage loans have been available to borrowers for many years.   As originally conceived, a no income verification loan was a sound product, offering highly qualified borrowers the ability to purchase or refinance a home quickly with minimal documentation.  Stated income mortgages are still being offered today to highly qualified borrowers by lenders such as Emigrant Mortgage.

What was once a legitimate mortgage product, however, morphed into the worst type of irresponsible lending during the national housing/mortgage frenzy of the past decade.  “Liar loans” became a product of destruction that allowed millions of totally unqualified people to borrow money who had little or no ability to service the loan.

Due to the mortgage industry’s excesses and irresponsible behavior, the “liar loans” are scheduled for legislative extinction on October 1, 2009.  The new regulations will apply to a newly defined category “of higher-priced mortgages” and the following restrictions will apply:

Prohibit a lender from making a loan without regard to borrowers’ ability to repay the loan from income and assets other than the home’s value.

Require creditors to verify the income and assets they rely upon to determine repayment ability.

The rule’s definition of “higher-priced mortgage loans” will capture virtually all loans in the subprime market, but generally exclude loans in the prime market.  To provide an index, the Federal Reserve Board will publish the “average prime offer rate,” based on a survey currently published by Freddie Mac.  A loan is higher-priced if it is a first-lien mortgage and has an annual percentage rate that is 1.5 percentage points or more above this index…

The new rules take effect on October 1, 2009

No Income Loans To Become Niche Product

The new rules  severely limit the interest rate that can be charged on a stated income prime loan to only 1.5% above the average rate on a prime mortgage.  Given the higher lending risk involved in approving a mortgage without income verification, I would expect that after October 1st, stated income loans will become a niche product, offered by only a few lenders to highly qualified borrowers.

The new rules will make it much more difficult to borrow for those who cannot verify income.   Considering the financial havoc that can result from liar loans, the mortgage industry should welcome the new restrictions which impose proper responsibilities on both lender and borrower.