America’s Mortgage Laws in Historical Perspective

Arizona State University

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Date Published 2012
Primary Author Andra Ghent
Other Authors
Theme Legal Framework for Housing Finance
Country United States


This paper traces the history of mortgage laws in the US. I explore what led states to follow title or lien theory, to adopt a non-judicial foreclosure procedure, to have different redemption periods, and to restrict deficiency judgments. The availability of non-judicial foreclosure without significant restrictions is largely the result of path-dependent quirks in the wording of various proposed statutes and decisions of individual judges. States that experienced more farm foreclosures in the early 1930s are more likely to have tried to ban deficiency judgments. Finally, I find higher foreclosures during the 1930s in non-judicial foreclosure states.

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