Home Equity Loans and Private Mortgage Insurance: Recent Trends & Potential Implications

11 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2008 Last revised: 15 Oct 2008

Date Written: October 14, 2008


This paper uses data from the 2001 and 2007 American Housing Surveys (AHS) and the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to document and assess the impact of increased use of home equity lines and decreased private mortgage insurance (PMI) on mortgage markets. The data confirms that in the years leading up to the mortgage crisis home buyers and lenders have aggressively used piggyback loans to avoid taking out PMI on first mortgages. Multiple-mortgage financing packages as a percent of newly originated mortgages (mortgages originated within the previous five years) went from 14.8% in survey year 2001 to 21.5% in survey year 2007. The multiple-mortgage percentage for seasoned mortgages (mortgages originated more than five years prior to the origination date) also increased by a modest amount. Further comparisons reveal a large decrease in the proportion of mortgages with PMI with the largest decreases in PMI coverage occurring among newly originated multiple-lien packages. Data from the SCF was used to compare five financial characteristics (credit card debt, installment loans, consumer credit, home-owners equity, and liquid assets) for multiple-lien versus single-lien households. The comparisons suggest single-lien households tend to have slightly stronger financial variables than multiple-lien households. The data does not support the view that homeowners with multiple liens are less risky and should therefore be allowed to avoid PMI. The reduced use of PMI and the increased use of home equity loans increased mortgage holder risk in several different ways and was a contributing factor to the 2008 mortgage and financial crisis. This change in lending and borrowing behavior is not a subprime market problem.

Keywords: mortgages, private mortgage insurance, PMI, foreclosure, subprime, default

JEL Classification: G21, G22, G28, K20

Suggested Citation

Bernstein, David P., Home Equity Loans and Private Mortgage Insurance: Recent Trends & Potential Implications (October 14, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1277353 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1277353

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