The Impact of Second Loans on Subprime Mortgage Defaults



An estimated 12.6% of primary mortgage loans were simultaneously originated with a second loan from 2004 until 2008, although relatively little is known about how the presence of such subordinate loans affects the default decisions of borrowers. We use a novel data series of loan servicing records from 2002 until 2010 to identify such borrowers and find evidence that the default behavior of these borrowers significantly differs from borrowers without second loans. Estimating a discrete-time proportional odds hazard model, we find borrowers with a second loan were 62.7% more likely to default each month on their primary loan when conditioning alone on the attributes of the primary loan. However, borrowers of second loans were 58.3% less likely to default on their primary loan as compared to single-loan borrowers with equivalent current combined attributes (i.e., loan-to-value, balance and interest rate). We hypothesize and provide empirical evidence that this occurs because borrowers with second loans have the option to sequentially default on each loan since subordinate lenders will not pursue foreclosure if borrowers have insufficient equity. Lenders of defaulted subordinate debt may revisit their decision to foreclose in the future after housing markets start to recover, thus prompting a new round of foreclosures.