Skip to main content

Publication Date

January 2005


Michael A. Stegman, Roberto G. Quercia, Walter R. Davis


Center for Responsible Lending

Predatory home loan features, such as refinance loans with prepayment penalties and those with balloon payments, significantly increase mortgage foreclosure risk

There are growing concerns about the way predatory mortgages erode housing equity. In this paper, we examine a potential additional impact: the relationship between abusive loan terms and foreclosure. Do predatory characteristics increase the likelihood of foreclosure once other risk factors are taken into account?

We examine this question by estimating the impact of two loans characteristics—prepayment penalties and balloon-payment requirements—on foreclosure using a national database of subprime refinance first-lien loans originated in 1999.

We find that these predatory loan features lead to a significant increase in mortgage foreclosure risk, even after controlling for other risk factors. For instance, refinance loans with prepayment penalties and those with balloon payments are more likely to experience a foreclosure than loans without these characteristics—by about 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

These findings suggest that predatory loans have the potential not only to erode household wealth but also to heighten the negative impacts on individuals, households and communities associated with foreclosure. Furthermore, we estimate that the use of prepayment penalties and balloon payment requirements in 1999 refinance originations increased foreclosure-related losses by about $465 and $127 million nationally, respectively.

Supplemental tables provide additional detail on the impact of predatory loan terms on subprime foreclosures.

Topics(s): Affordable Homeownership, Consumer Protections, Default, Bankruptcy, & Foreclosure, Financial Inclusion, Housing Policy, Mortgage Finance