Subprime lending

Subprime lending

In finance, subprime lending (also referred to as near-prime, non-prime, and second-chance lending) means making loans to people who may have difficulty maintaining the repayment schedule. These loans are characterized by higher interest rates and less favorable terms in order to compensate for higher credit risk.[1]

Proponents of subprime lending maintain that the practice extends credit to people who would otherwise not have access to the credit market. Professor Harvey S. Rosen of Princeton University explained, "The main thing that innovations in the mortgage market have done over the past 30 years is to let in the excluded: the young, the discriminated-against, the people without a lot of money in the bank to use for a down payment."[2]


Defining subprime risk

As people become economically active, records are created relating to their borrowing, earning and lending history. This is called a credit rating, and although covered by privacy laws the information is readily available to people with a need to know (in some countries, loan applications specifically allow the lender to access such records).

Subprime borrowers have credit ratings that might include:

  • limited debt experience (so the lender's assessor simply does not know, and assumes the worst), or
  • no possession of property assets that could be used as security (for the lender to sell in case of default)
  • excessive debt (the known income of the individual or family is unlikely to be enough to pay living expenses + interest + repayment),
  • a history of late or sometimes missed payments (morose debt[citation needed]) so that the loan period had to be extended,
  • failures to pay debts completely (default debt), and
  • any legal judgments such as "orders to pay" or bankruptcy (sometimes known in Britain as County Court Judgements or CCJs).

Lenders' standards for determining risk categories may also consider the size of the proposed loan, and also take into account the way the loan and the repayment plan is structured, if it is a conventional repayment loan a mortgage loan, an Endowment mortgage interest only loan, Standard repayment loan, amortized loan, credit card limit or some other arrangement. The originator is also taken into consideration. Because of this, it was possible for a loan to a borrower with "prime" characteristics (e.g. high credit score, low debt) to be classified as subprime.[3]

Student loans

In some countries student loans are considered[who?] subprime, perhaps because of school drop-outs. In America, the amount of student loan debt recently surpassed credit card debt. In other countries such loans are underwritten by governments or sponsors. Many student loans are structured in special ways because of the difficulty of predicting students' future earnings. These structures may be in the form of Soft loans, Income-Sensitive Repayment loans Income-Contingent Repayment loans and so on. Because student loans provide repayment records for credit rating, and may also indicate their earning potential, Student loan default can cause serious problems later in life as an individual wishes to make a substantial purchase on credit such as purchasing a vehicle or buying a house, since defaulters are likely to be classified as subprime, which means the loan may be refused or more difficult to arrange and certainly more expensive than for someone with a perfect repayment record.

United States

Although there is no single, standard definition, in the United States subprime loans are usually classified as those where the borrower has a FICO score below 640. The term was popularized by the media during the Subprime mortgage crisis or "credit crunch" of 2007. Those loans which do not meet Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines for prime mortgages are called "non-conforming" loans.

A borrower with an outstanding record of repayment on time and in full will get what is called an A-paper loan. Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit 'scores' might be rated as meriting an A-minus, B-paper, C-paper or D-paper loan, with interest payments progressively increased for less reliable payers to allow the company to 'share the risk' of default equitably among all its borrowers.

Subprime crisis

The subprime mortgage crisis arose from 'bundling' American subprime and American regular mortgages which were traditionally isolated from, and sold in a separate market from prime loans. These 'bundles' of mixed (prime and subprime) mortgages were the basis Asset-backed securities so the 'probable' rate of return looked superb (since subprime lenders pay higher premiums, and the loans were anyway secured against saleable real-estate, and so, theoretically 'could not fail'). Many mortgages had a low interest for the first year, and poorer buyers 'swapped' regularly at first, but finally such borrowers began to default in large numbers. The inflated house-price bubble burst, property valuations plummeted and the real rate of return on investment could not be estimated, and so confidence in these instruments collapsed, and all were considered to be almost worthless Toxic assets, regardless of their actual composition or performance.

To avoid high initial mortgage payments, many subprime borrowers took out adjustable-rate mortgages (or ARMs) that give them a lower initial interest rate. But with potential annual adjustments of 2% or more per year, these loans can end up costing much more. So a $500,000 loan at a 4% interest rate for 30 years equates to a payment of about $2,400 a month. But the same loan at 10% for 27 years (after the adjustable period ends) equates to a payment of $4,220. A 6-percentage-point increase (from 4% to 10%) in the rate caused slightly more than a 75% increase in the payment.[4] This is even more apparent when the lifetime cost of the loan is considered (though most people will want to refinance their loans periodically). The total cost of the above loan at 4% is $864,000, while the higher rate of 10% would incur a lifetime cost of $1,367,280.

See also


External links

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