Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

July 29, 2015

First-Time Homebuyers, You’re Okay

By David Reiss

Couple Looking at Home

Saty Patrabansh of the Office of Policy Analysis and Research at the Federal Housing Finance Agency has posted a working paper, The Marginal Effect of First-Time Homebuyer Status on Mortgage Default and Prepayment.

While this is a dry read, it yields a pretty important insight for first-time homebuyers: you’re okay, just the way you are! The abstract reads,

This paper examines the loan performance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac first-time homebuyer mortgages originated from 1996 to 2012. First-time homebuyer mortgages generally perform worse than repeat homebuyer mortgages. But first-time homebuyers are younger and have lower credit scores, home equity, and income than repeat homebuyers, and therefore are comparatively less likely to withstand financial stress or take advantage of financial innovations available in the market. The distributional make-up of first-time homebuyers is different than that of repeat homebuyers in terms of many borrower, loan, and property characteristics that can be determined at the time of loan origination. Once these distributional differences are accounted for in an econometric model, there is virtually no difference between the average first-time and repeat homebuyers in their probabilities of mortgage default. Hence, the difference between the first-time and repeat homebuyer mortgage defaults can be attributed to the difference in the distributional make-up of the two groups and not to the premise that first-time homebuyers are an inherently riskier group. However, there appears to be an inherent difference in the prepayment probabilities of first-time and repeat homebuyers holding borrower, loan, and property characteristics constant. First-time homebuyers are less likely to prepay their mortgages compared to repeat homebuyers even after accounting for the distributional make-up of the two groups using information known at the time of loan origination.

So, just to be clear, being a first-time homebuyer is not inherently risky. Rather, the risks arising from transactions involving first-time homebuyers are the same as those involving repeat homebuyers:  loan characteristics, property characteristics and other borrower characteristics.

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