Knowledge and Behavior of Mortgage Borrowers: Insights from the National Survey of Mortgage Originations
(Housing, Community Development, and Urban Policy)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In 2012, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began work on the National Mortgage Database (NMDB) and a new quarterly mail survey called the National Survey of Mortgage Originations (NSMO) associated with it. In November 2018, the two agencies released a public use file covering the first four years (2013–2016) of mortgage originations in NSMO. The public use file contains survey responses and key administrative data obtained from other sources. The availability of matched administrative and survey data offers researchers and policymakers a unique view of the U.S. mortgage market, arguably one of the most critical markets in the U.S. economy.
NSMO is unique for two reasons. First, it fills a vital information void. There is no other recurring nationally representative survey of borrowers who have just obtained a mortgage. Second, NSMO provides potential access to high-quality administrative data, as NSMO’s sampling frame is derived from the NMDB. The NMDB data include origination and performance information for each NMDB sample mortgage—and credit information about the borrowers associated with those mortgages—from origination to closure. The availability of high-quality administrative data for each sample loan means that the NSMO does not have to rely on the respondent to provide factual information about the mortgage. Thus, the survey instrument focuses on obtaining information about the borrowers’ experience, perceptions, and expectations—which are not readily captured anywhere else.
The four papers in this panel use the public use NSMO data to address a set of related and important questions about the knowledge and behavior of borrowers in the U.S. housing market over the past few years. To make informed choices about buying a home or choosing and closing on a mortgage, consumers need information on a multitude of factors, including their own financial situation, the state of the housing market in their area, the details of available loan products, and an understanding of the various providers and the process involved in the mortgage transaction. Some of that information is provided by private sources, although search costs or agency costs could be a factor in borrowers’ access to that information; however, in some cases, policymakers have mandated that consumers, or at least certain consumers, be provided particular information.
The first two papers focus on questions related to information provided primarily by private sources. The last two papers focus more specifically on market interventions mandated by statute and regulations aimed at improving the information available to borrowers. The four papers in this panel each use the survey data from NSMO to begin to address important questions about consumer knowledge and understanding in the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. Although each of these papers is a first step in its respective area, they all find important variations by geography or borrower characteristics, and all offer new areas for additional research.