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Resolving home loan distress after COVID19

Handling home loan distress after COVID-19: Some lessons from the last crisis

Fergal McCann, Terry O’Malley

Debt moratoria introduced to reduce the preliminary impact of the coronavirus pandemic have actually begun to end. This column obtains lessons for policymakers by evaluating comprehensive micro data on financial obligations resolution during the recovery from the post-2008 Irish monetary crisis. It highlights trends in debtor engagement in resolution, the monetary health of households engaging, details on how loans were restructured, and the success of loan reorganizes.

The beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 led to the issuance of widespread debt moratoria around the world to offer liquidity relief to homes. These moratoria have started to expire in Ireland and will do so throughout Europe in the coming months, which causes some crucial questions about the design of additional policies that must be carried out to handle the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Despite the seriousness of the last economic crisis, most European nations did not experience prevalent mortgage defaults. In contrast, Ireland experienced a remarkable boom in home costs, followed by a similarly remarkable bust and a collapse in employment. By 2013, almost 14% of the Irish owner-occupier home mortgage market was in arrears of more than 90 days. In this vein, Ireland’s boom-bust experience mirrored that of a number of the worst-affected states in the US, which are the topic of a rich body of research and argument, and have contrasting views on the function of credit supply and demand aspects advanced by, among others, Mian and Sufi (2009) and Adelino et al. (2016 ).

Owing to issues about debtors losing their houses, widespread home loan modification was an essential feature of the banking and policy action, with foreclosure much less typical. The Reserve Bank of Ireland enforced targets on banks in 2013 to ensure the huge bulk of distressed home mortgage cases received a “sustainable solution”. By 2016, over one in six owner-occupier home mortgage accounts had actually been reorganized.

In our related paper (McCann and O’Malley 2020), we exploit abundant banking sector data on mortgage and distressed home balance sheets to analyse the way in which home mortgage adjustments functioned in Ireland over the last decade, hoping to derive lessons for both the Irish and international policy action to the expiration of pandemic-related payment moratoria.

Customer engagement

We focus initially on customer engagement, specified in the Irish case as an instance where the customer contacts the lender since of monetary problem and finishes a Requirement Financial Statement (SFS) form. This SFS is a standardised industry-wide template that records all appropriate info on earnings, expenditure, debt, and demographic aspects at the point of distress. SFS forms offer an uncommon and abundant source of monetary details on home loan customers. From our research study on debtor engagement, based upon retail banking information on engaging debtors in between 2011 and 2018, we highlight a variety of key facts:

1. Engagement was widespread, despite the reasonably low likelihood of foreclosure. More than one-in-five home mortgages in Ireland had actually an associated SFS finished during the 2012-2020 period.

2. Lots of customers engaged early, before missing out on payments, stemming the capacity circulation to financial obligations. At the majority of points in the last years, majority of appealing home loan borrowers were engaging prior to having defaulted. Proportionally, more than two times as lots of performing customers were engaging before defaulting, relative to defaulting without having engaged.

The above plainly reveal that, even after a collapse in home rates and facing low foreclosure danger, a large number of mortgage customers nevertheless engaged with their lending institution to get to resolutions. This relative success points towards numerous debtors having high default costs, in keeping with the modern literature mentioning that ‘tactical’ or ‘callous’ default is uncommon, and requires deep levels of negative equity prior to taking place.

Despite this relative success, part of the factor for the continuous issue of long-dated home loan arrears in Ireland can be traced to the absence of engagement with the system among a relatively small group. Even where most of families engage consistently to resolve their home mortgage distress, lack of an effective collateral foreclosure program causes a build-up of deep arrears cases representing just over 5% of all owner-occupier mortgage balances, recommending that the ‘last resort’ of a working foreclosure regime is a vital part of the general debt resolution architecture.

3. Non-engagement was common among those that collected long-dated defaults over the decade. Near to 40% of those in long-lasting mortgage financial obligations (greater than 2 years unpaid) are determined to be ‘non-engaging’ or ‘non-cooperating’ throughout 2 different studies in the last few years. Among those with financial obligations of ten or more years, ‘non-cooperating’ rates are over 50%.

Restructures: Momentary or long-term?? The pandemic raises a variety of important questions about the nature of future reorganizes. Lenders’ beliefs about the shape of the healing will partly determine restructuring. If a vaccine causes a sharp ‘V’, with activity recuperating to previous levels across all sectors, short-term relief such as additional moratoria or periods of interest-only payments are warranted. If a ‘swoosh’ or an ‘L’ dominates, some customers will be not able to service financial obligations over a long time-frame, requiring much deeper levels of financial obligation relief. Lastly, if a ‘K-shape’ takes hold in which some sectors go through long-term structural decrease, deep relief over a longer term might be more appropriate, with turn to insolvency or movement to social well-being schemes when required. An obstacle facing lenders and policy makers today is the uncertainty around this course.

Looking at the Irish situation over the last years, where negative equity was a widespread issue and numerous borrowers suffered deep and lasting shocks to payment capacity, we learn that:

4. Policy action can have large effects. Mainly in action to regulative pressure, in between 2010 and 2019, short-term plans moved from accounting for near to 70% of outstanding restructures to less than 15%.

5. Momentary, short-term modifications are suitable in the best circumstances, but require follow-on deeper restructure in a lot of cases. Amongst performing home mortgages with a short-term modification in 2011-12, 75% were carrying out at end-2017, with near to half of this group getting a long-lasting adjustment along the method.

Figure 1 Short-term plans as a share of all restructures, 2010-2020

Notes: Short-term (‘ short-lived’ in chart) arrangements consist of interest-only plans, short-term moratoria, and payment reductions.

Source: McCann and O’Malley (2020 )

Financial distress

The monetary and socioeconomic profile of borrowers looking for payment relief can have implications for societal mindsets towards the suitability of that relief. In the Irish case, media protection of high-income, high-debt cases in insolvency courts has at times developed an inaccurate impression of the typical experience of those looking for mortgage debt resolution. Furthermore, in cases where debtor earnings have been permanently and deeply harmed by the shock being experienced, the policy solutions required are likely to extend beyond the banking system towards the social safeguard. From a policymaker viewpoint, access to information such as the SFS is imperative in notifying these discussions. In the Irish case we find out that in the last decade:

6. When customers engaged, many were experiencing severe monetary problem.

a. They had actually suffered a typical earnings fall of one third given that mortgage origination;

b. They normally had loan-to-income ratios above 5;

c. They were on average on the cusp of negative equity.

7. These monetary problems had a significant effect on living requirements. While in the general population the mean household was taking in a third of their month-to-month earnings in 2018, in the SFS population, due to lower earnings levels, practically three-quarters of earnings is committed to intake, indicating a much lower capacity to save or service financial obligation in this group.

8. This translated into an incapacity to service debt for many. Eighteen percent of households engaged with monthly deficits (earnings less expenditure less home loan payments) of over EUR1,000.

9. Living requirements had actually fallen dramatically. Close to 30% of households engaged with usage levels already below ‘affordable living’ suggestions released by the Insolvency Service of Ireland.

Post-modification outcomes

Our information also allow us to study the way in which adjustments were released, and the factors associated with their success. The research tells us that lenders in most cases released modifications that left customers in precarious circumstances where there was little durability to extra shocks. Across the market, the default rate over the last few years has had to do with five times higher for customized loans compared to performing loans without any such history.

10. Even after receiving modification, vulnerabilities remained. Those with modified home mortgages have higher payment-to-income ratios than the basic population.

11. Repayment relief. The average long-term mortgage adjustment resulted in a reduction in monthly repayments of 16.6% compared to a typical 36% in the USA HAMP.

12. The option of modification type is connected with wide variation in payment relief. The average split home mortgage resulted in a 50% cut in regular monthly payments, while the typical term extension led to a 26% cut. Arrears capitalisations led to the smallest falls in regular monthly payments of 10.5% on average.

13. Payment relief works. Re-default rates are lower where the company has made deeper cuts in regular monthly repayments as part of the modification (Figure 2).

14. Normal signals are relevant factors to target post-modification. Re-default rates are lower where the modified loan has a lower loan-to-value ratio and a lower payment-to-income ratio.

Figure 2 Relationship in between repayment reductions and re-default

Notes: Each graph is the empirical possibility of a missed out on payment in the two years after a modification is released. Vertical bars represent an approximate 95% self-confidence interval.


Through an analysis of in-depth micro information in the last great economic crisis, we derive lessons for policymakers handling ending payment moratoria after the preliminary stage of the pandemic. Early engagement on behalf of both borrowers and loan providers is crucial for successful resolution of loan arrears. Both short-term and long-lasting services play a role in restoring the stability of family financial resources, but long-term services are important to prevent drift into difficult-to-resolve, long-lasting arrears cases. Numerous households taking part in defaults resolution have significantly damaged financial resources and without appropriate policies, numerous might drift into long-lasting defaults. Lastly, we find that much deeper cuts to payment concerns cause a higher likelihood of loan payment.


Adelino, M, A Schoar and F Severino (2016 ), “Loan Originations and Defaults in the Home Mortgage Crisis: The Function of the Middle Class”, The Review of Financial Studies 29( 7 ): 1635– 1670.

McCann, F and T O’Malley (2020 ), “Handling mortgage distress after COVID-19: some lessons from the last crisis”, Reserve bank of Ireland Financial Stability Note 2020, No. 7.

Mian, A and A Sufi (2009 ), “The effects of mortgage credit growth: Evidence from the U.S. mortgage default crisis”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics 124( 4 ): 1449– 1496.

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