Compensation Structures in Mortgage Industry

Friday, October 31, 2008 | 01:10 PM

Interesting piece on how mortgage workers were comped during the heyday by John Quigley, titled Compensation and Incentives in the Mortgage Business.

It goes a long way to explaining why so many people did such silly things during the boom: They were well paid to do so!

A quick excerpt:

The incentive structure that arose for firms in this specialized industry set the stage for
the collapse. The incomes and fees generated are all transactions-based, that is, payments are made at the time the transaction is recorded. The originator of the loan, typically a mortgage broker, is paid at the time the contract is signed. Brokerage fees have varied between 0.5 and 3.0 percent. The mortgage lender earns a fee, between 0.5 and 2.5 percent, upon sale of the mortgage. The bond issuer is paid a fee, typically between 0.2 and 1.5 percent, when the bond is issued. On top of this, the rating agency is paid its fee by the bond issuer at the time the security is issued. All these fees are earned and paid in full within six to eight months after the mortgage contract is signed by the borrower.

Thus, no party to the mortgage transaction has any economic stake in the performance of
the underlying loan. In fact the mortgage broker is paid a larger percentage, termed a “yield spread premium,” if he convinces his clients to accept a higher and more default-prone interest rate. With this structure of incentives, it is not hard to understand why any risky loans were originated, financed, sold, and securitized, especially during the period of rapidly rising house prices from 1999 through 2006. With expectations of rising house prices, it is also not hard to understand why pools of these loans received the imprimatur of a credit rating agency when offered for sale.

One does not need to invoke the menace of unscrupulous and imprudent lenders or of equally predatory borrowers to explain the rapid collapse of the mortgage market as house price increases slowed in 2006, before ultimately declining. There were certainly enough unscrupulous lenders and predatory borrowers in the market, but the incentives faced by decent people—mortgagors and mortgagees—made their behavior much less sensitive to the underlying risks. The only actor with a stake in the ultimate performance of the loan was the mortgagee. Everyone else had been paid in full—way before the homeowner had made more than a couple of payments on the loan.

The full list of foolishness is maintained at mortgage implode . . .


Permanent post here

Compensation and Incentives in the Mortgage Business
John M. Quigley
The Economists' Voice:  Vol. 5:  Iss. 6, Article 2.

Friday, October 31, 2008 | 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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Let me give you a 20-something perspective on this whole lunacy. 4 years ago I bought my first house, mid-200k, put 20% down, which the mortgage company almost thought was unheard of, as they were willing to lend me, at the time a 23 year old with 1.5 years of work experience and a 60,000 annual income over 350k..

But the real insanity were the salaries people in this industry were making. I had one 23 year old female friend, a communications major(!!), that came out of school and made $150,000 in her first year selling model homes for one of the homebuilders. A ton of my friends, mostly average students, got into selling mortgages and were making 100,000 plus a year in - these were kids that, in any other period in the last 30 years, were destined for 30,000/year type jobs. And being such brilliant financiers, many of them used their newfound wealth to buy investment properties with no money down..

This whole thing is not nearly unwound yet.

Posted by: CF | Oct 31, 2008 1:48:37 PM

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