Do Mortgage Lenders Compete Locally? Implications for Credit Access
Jorring and Buchak propose to study the impact of local concentration of mortgage lenders on household credit access and homeownership. Homeownership is the primary channel through which most U.S. households build wealth. Existing literature finds little to no relationship between local lender concentration and mortgage interest rates. Therefore, federal regulators regard mortgage markets as national and view their local concentration as irrelevant to financial regulation and monetary policy. The two researchers argue that this view is incomplete, showing that although local concentration has no influence on interest rates, it strongly affects lending standards and upfront fees. In more concentrated areas, preliminary results show that lenders charge higher fees, mortgage application rejection rates are higher, and the pool of originated mortgages is less risky in terms of both credit scores and default. This may be particularly true for low-income, female, and applicants of color, suggesting that local lender concentration is particularly important when it comes to questions of credit access for traditionally underserved borrowers. Jorring and Buchak plan to combine public data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which covers the near universe of U.S. mortgage applications, as well as data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on single-family loan origination and performance, with private data to explore the effects of local concentration in mortgage lending.