The increase in the number of cashout refis has led to some concerns about the implications for the quality of household balance sheets, similar to what occurred in the run-up to the Global Financial Crisis. At that time, many homeowners were tempted to use their houses as a “piggy bank” as the national savings rate hit all-time lows. In the runup to the Global Financial Crisis, the national savings rate hit a sixty-year low of 2.2% while over the 2016-2019 period the rate averaged a much healthier 7.6%.
It is useful to scale the magnitude of assets being cashed out and Freddie Mac releases a very useful file documenting this quarterly for their book of business back to 1994. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the amount cashed out reached $48.4 billion, about 58% of the $84.0 billion peak attained in the second quarter of 2006. As a share of household net worth, the most recent data point is 3.7%, well below the peak of 12.7% reached in Q2 2006.
It’s useful along these lines to ask about the credit profile of cashouts compared to other refinancings. Freddie Mac didn’t report cashout refi separately until 2008 Q3, but the following useful picture can be obtained.
In general, lenders tend to “lean against the wind” by loosening credit conditions when demand for credit declines, and vice versa. Interestingly, it appears that the share of noncashout loans follows a pattern in which the share rises when credit in general is tightened. At the present time, the average FICO score in March for noncashouts was a tight 764, vs 753 for cashouts. It is difficult to pin the rise in equity cashouts in the current cycle to loosening credit conditions.
Of course, the proof is in performance, and now that we have loan-level DQs for the GSE’s beginning last month, we can look at this broken down by loan purpose for the Freddie Mac book:
The performance of cashouts is mildly worse than that for noncashouts, but more in line with purchase mortgages. These statistics will bear watching in future months, particularly as forbearance programs begin to expire towards the end of the year.