Price Dispersion in Mortgage Markets

Using transaction-level data on Canadian mortgage contracts, we document an increase in the average discount negotiated off the posted price and in rate dispersion. Our aim is to identify the beneficiaries of discounting and to test whether dispersion is caused by price discrimination. The standard explanation for dispersion in credit markets is risk-based pricing. Our contracts are guaranteed by government-backed insurance, so risk cannot be the main factor. We find that lenders set prices that reflect consumer bargaining leverage, not just costs. The presence of dispersion implies a lack of competition, but our results show this to be consumer specific.