April 2024

Risk Perception and Loan Underwriting in Securitized Commercial Mortgages

Simon Firestone, Nathan Godin, Akos Horvath, Jacob Sagi


We use model-implied volatility to proxy for property risk perceptions in the commercial real estate lending market. Although loan-to-value ratios (LTVs) unconditionally decreased following the Global Financial Crisis, LTVs conditioned on implied volatility and other theoretically motivated fundamental determinants of optimal leverage show no conclusive trend before or after the crisis. Taking reported property and loan attributes at face value, we find no clear pattern of unwarranted credit being extended to commercial real estate assets. We conclude that systematically higher LTV decisions pre-crisis would have primarily stemmed from risk misperceptions rather than imprudent practices. Our findings suggest that the aggregate LTV level should be interpreted as a proxy for lending standards only after controlling for aggregate risk perceptions, among a host of asset and lending market factors. Our findings also highlight the importance of measuring and tracking aggregate risk perceptions in informing regulators and policymakers.

Keywords: Global Financial Crisis, Implied volatility, Lending standards, Loan underwriting, Mortgages, Real estate finance

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2024.019

PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: April 10, 2024