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What Happens to Banks When House Prices Fall? U.S. Regional Housing Busts of the 1980s and 1990s

The recent rapid appreciation of house prices in many U.S. markets has prompted concern over the possible effects of a sharp decline in prices, especially for commercial banks and other real estate lenders. This article examines regional real estate booms and busts in the 1980s and 1990s: Only about half of state house price booms were followed by a severe decline in prices, but large declines occurred in several states that did not have a prior boom. Banks in states that had large house price declines experienced high loan default rates and, thus, low profit and high failure rates. Although U.S. banks may have become more exposed to residential real estate recently, they appear less vulnerable to a decline in house prices than banks in states with large price declines in the earlier period.

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