Resolving Mortgage Distress after COVID-19: Some Lessons from the Last Crisis
22 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2021
Date Written: June 1, 2021
Abstract We analyse micro data on Irish mortgages and distressed households’ balance sheets in the last decade to assess the debt resolution process in the Irish mortgage market in the lead up to the COVID-19 shock. We highlight the widespread engagement of Irish borrowers with debt resolution mechanisms during a decade in which one sixth of mortgage accounts were restructured by 2016. Lenders favoured short-term mortgage modifications at the beginning of the decade and three-quarters of performing mortgages with short-term modifications in 2011-2012 remained performing at end-2017. However, close to half of these cases involved a subsequent longer-term restructure, consistent with concerns that short-term modification alone is not sufficient to ensure mortgage sustainability. In other cases, an over-reliance on unsustainable short-term arrangements translated into longer-term arrears accumulation. Turning to the financial distress of households seeking a resolution to their arrears, we find an average income fall of roughly one third since mortgage origination and that one third had already reduced their non-housing expenditures to below the recommended minimum level used in the personal insolvency system. Finally, we show that larger cuts in repayment burdens and lower ex-post payment-to-income ratios are both highly predictive of successful long-term restructures.
JEL Classification: F21, F28, G51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation