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UFA Default Risk Index: Caution Advised

Fall 2022

The UFA Default Risk Index for the fourth quarter of 2022 is 152, 53 points above its third quarter level of 99 (revised) in our baseline scenario. Under current economic conditions, investors and lenders should expect defaults on loans currently being originated to be 52% higher than the average of similar loans originated in the 1990s, due solely to the local and national economic environment. That’s a key finding of the latest UFA Mortgage Report by University Financial Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“With high mortgage rates, falling real house prices and an expected erosion of the labor market, expected defaults on mortgages originated today are now at levels we have not seen since the Great Recession 14 years ago. Concomitantly, expected defaults on earlier loans originated at the historically low rates over the last couple years have low default rates because borrowers have low monthly payments and substantial equity,” said Dennis Capozza, who is Professor Emeritus of Finance in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and a founding principal of UFA. “Mortgage lenders and investors can be cautious in this environment by holding existing loans with low mortgage rates in the most favorable locations.”

The UFA Default Risk Index measures the risk of default on newly originated mortgages. UFA’s analysis is based on a ‘constant-quality’ loan, that is, a loan with the same borrower, loan and collateral characteristics. The index reflects only the changes in current and expected future economic conditions, which are less favorable currently than in prior years.

Each quarter UFA evaluates economic conditions in the United States and assesses how these conditions will impact expected future defaults, prepayments, loss recoveries and loan values for nonprime loans. A number of factors affect the expected defaults on a constant-quality loan. Most important are worsening economic conditions. A recession causes an erosion of both borrower and collateral performance. Borrowers are more likely to be subjected to a financial shock such as unemployment, and if shocked, will be less able to withstand the shock. Fed easing of interest rates has the opposite effect.

UFA’s pioneering mortgage analysis has successfully predicted problems in the mortgage market well in advance including the increased defaults in Southern California in the mid-90s and the recent national mortgage crisis. Its predictions are based on an extensive analysis of local economic conditions in each state and the relationship of those conditions to loan performance. The historical record of millions of mortgage loans is studied each quarter to assess the vulnerability of each state to loan losses and prepayments. The detailed analysis of each state – including best and worst places to lend – is available in the UFA Mortgage Report, published on a quarterly basis.