Monday, September 3, 2007

"The Subprime Loan Machine"
A little-noticed tool of automated underwriting software helped fuel the recent subprime mortgage boom.

The rise and fall of the subprime market has been told as a story of a flood of Wall Street money and the desire of Americans desperate to be part of a housing boom. But it was the little-noticed tool of automated underwriting software that made that boom possible.

Automated underwriting software spawned an array of subprime mortgages, like those that required no down payment or interest-only payments. The software effectively helped move what was a niche product only a decade ago into the mainstream.

Automated underwriting “replaced the ways we used to extend credit,” said Prof. Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.

Automated underwriting is now used to generate as much as 40 percent of all subprime loans, according to Pat McCoy, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who has written on real estate lending.

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