How Negative Equity can cause arrears.

A recent report by Moody’s pointed out that increased negative equity will cause a rise in arrears. The commentary surrounding this (in Ireland) takes the view that correlation is not necessarily causation. That people in negative equity won’t automatically go into arrears unless they cannot pay, that negative equity of itself is only an issue if you lose your job or have to sell. This is a valid opinion but it ignores the operational aspect of a household in respect of the way that they react when financial difficulty occurs.

There are several hundred thousand households in negative equity, and about 35,000 in serious arrears, how many of those people would not be in arrears if they were not in negative equity? The answer is: how ever many would have sold their house as a solution.

The first thing many people do if they know they are going to be headed for a situation where they stand no chance of paying their mortgage is to put their home up for sale, in …

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An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure – banks need to change how they deal with arrears

Currently banks are not interested in dealing with customers who ‘might go into arrears’, they tend to brush them off – instead focusing on the people who are already in actual trouble. This doesn’t seem rational to me from a business perspective – and this approach would fail any standard test of common sense – if you knew a storm was coming would you carry an umbrella? If you knew and were warned in advance that it was going to be a blazing hot day would you get some sun-cream? Oddly the Irish mortgage lenders defy logic when it comes to knowing that certain clients are going to fall into arrears, and this is going to ruin thousands of credit histories that could otherwise be maintained. Credit aversion might be the name of the day now, but these same consumers may feel differently in five years time.

Any credit crisis we have encountered on individual levels has always had …

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Moving paper or ‘selling your mortgage’.

In the USA and Canada they sometimes refer to a process of ‘moving paper’ which is where a person sells their mortgage – the actual debt and all the conditions that go with it. That might sound kind of pointless but it would certainly be a valuable option in Ireland and could perhaps offer (if it existed: it doesn’t) a selling advantage of debt holders over non-debt holders in selling a property.

Take an example of a person selling a house for €200,000 if they were able to offer their current mortgage of ECB+1% to the prospective buyer then it might be an attractive proposition! In particular, the bank might benefit because even if the person was in negative equity it might be worthwhile to buy such a debt product at a premium.

People don’t think about buying or selling mortgages (institutions do it all the time), and yet we readily consider buying and selling debt (which is what the bond market is). Why can’t we do the same for the individual …

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