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  Dennis Capozza
 

Mortgage Defaults at Lowest Levels in Five Years

12/23/2010 --

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Default risk on home loans fell once again in late 2010 to its lowest level in more than five years, says Dennis Capozza, Dykema Professor of Business Administration at Ross, and professor of finance and real estate.

Under current economic conditions, investors and lenders should expect defaults on loans currently being originated to be just slightly higher than mortgage defaults in early 2005, Capozza says.

Capozza's University Financial Associates (UFA) Default Risk Index, which measures the risk of default on newly originated prime and nonprime mortgages by tracking local and national economic conditions, registered 143 during the fourth quarter of 2010.

This means that homeowners are 43 percent more likely to default on their loans than the average of loans originated in the 1990s—but still much less likely than the worst years of the economic downturn from 2006 to 2008. The peak level of 362 was set in 2007.

While the index shows that default risks remain high, mortgage originators should be less apprehensive about new originations, Capozza says. Rising inflation expectations and decelerating rates of house price decline have helped spur lower default rates.

"If the Fed is successful in raising the inflation rate with a new round of quantitative easing, nominal house prices will not have to fall as far to restore equilibrium, and defaults will be mitigated," says Capozza, who is a founding principal of UFA, a risk-management firm that forecasts mortgage and consumer loan performance.

"Furthermore, we are seeing a deceleration in the decline in house prices, although this may be a temporary result due to the expiration of the federal government home-purchase subsidy program. Initial evidence is already suggesting that the surge in buying at the expiration is being reversed out."

The UFA Default Risk Index measures the risk of default on newly originated prime and nonprime mortgages. The analysis is based on a "constant-quality" loan, which has the same borrower, loan, and collateral characteristics. The index reflects only the changes in current and expected future economic conditions, which are much less favorable currently than in prior years.



For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu