Mortgage Refinancing, Consumer Spending, and Competition: Evidence from the Home Affordable Refinancing Program

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Mortgage Refinancing, Consumer Spending, and Competition: Evidence from the Home Affordable Refinancing Program

Mortgage Refinancing, Consumer Spending, and Competition: Evidence from the Home Affordable Refinancing Program

Mortgage Refinancing, Consumer Spending, and Competition: Evidence from the Home Affordable Refinancing Program


Sumit Agarwal

National University of Singapore

Gene Amromin

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Souphala Chomsisengphet

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

Tomasz Piskorski

Columbia Business School – Finance and Economics

Amit Seru

University of Chicago – Booth School of Business

Vincent W. Yao

Georgia State University

August 2015

NBER Working Paper No. w21512


Abstract:

We examine the ability of the government to impact mortgage refinancing activity and spur consumption by focusing on the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP). The policy allowed intermediaries to refinance insufficiently collateralized mortgages by extending government credit guarantee on such loans. We use proprietary loan-level panel data from a large market participant with refinancing history and social security number matched consumer credit records of each borrower. A difference-in-difference empirical design reveals a substantial increase in refinancing activity by the program, inducing more than three million eligible borrowers with primarily fixed-rate mortgages – the predominant contract type in the U.S. – to refinance their loans. Borrowers received a reduction of around 140 basis points in interest rate due to HARP refinancing amounting to about $3,500 in annual savings per borrower. More than 20% of interest rate savings from refinancing was allocated to durable (auto) spending, with larger spending response among less wealthy and creditworthy. Regions more exposed to the program saw a relative increase in non-durable and durable consumer spending, a decline in foreclosure rates, and a faster recovery in house prices. A variety of identification strategies reveal that competitive frictions in the refinancing market may have hampered HARP’s impact. On average, these frictions reduced take-up rate among eligible borrowers by 10% and cut interest rate savings by 16 basis points, with both these effects being twice as large among the most indebted borrowers. These findings have implications for future policy interventions, pass-through of monetary policy through household balance sheets, and design of the mortgage market.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

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