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Residential Mortgage-Backed Security (RMBS)


A Residential Mortgage-Backed Security (RMBS) is a type of investment product backed by home loans. These loans are bought from banks, packaged together, and then sold to investors as securities. The investors receive the interest and principal payments from the homeowners’ mortgage repayments.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Residential Mortgage-Backed Security (RMBS)” would be: Residential: /ˌrez.ɪˈden.ʃəl/Mortgage: /ˈmɔr.gɪdʒ/Backed: /bakt/ Security: /sɪˈkyʊər.ɪ.ti/RMBS: /ɑːɹ ɛm biː ɛs/Remember, in phonemic script, ‘/’ marks are used to enclose the sounds, and a ‘.’ is used to denote syllable divisions.

Key Takeaways

1. Definition of RMBS: Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) are a type of mortgage-backed debt security whose cash flows come from residential debt, like mortgages, home-equity loans, and subprime mortgages. The cash flows from these underlying assets are then sliced and redistributed to investors in different tranches according to the structure designed by the issuers.

2. Risks and Rewards: RMBS can offer a higher yield compared to other fixed-income securities. However, they can also be rather complex and carry a high degree of risk. This includes prepayment risk, where homeowners pay back their mortgages before they mature, and default risk, where homeowners fail to make their mortgage payments. These risks were major contributing factors for the 2008 Financial Crisis.

3. Role in the Financial Markets: RMBS play an important role in the financial market. They allow banks to transfer risk from their balance sheets, free up capital for further lending, and increase liquidity in the market. Investors, on the other hand, obtain access to a diversified pool of assets which they would not typically be able to invest in directly.


Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) are important because they play a crucial role in the housing finance and broader financial market. RMBS are securities that are collateralized by a pool of residential mortgages, allowing banks and other financial institutions to move risk off their balance sheets. This not only aids in maintaining the liquidity of these institutions but also supports the financing and underwriting of new mortgages. However, RMBS were also at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis, which underlines their potential systemic importance and their implications for financial stability. Hence, understanding and managing the risks associated with RMBS is vital for both investors and regulators.


A Residential Mortgage-Backed Security (RMBS) serves an important role in mortgage finance and, by extension, the overall financial system. Essentially, an RMBS offers a way for financial institutions, like banks, to move the risk associated with mortgage lending off their balance sheets. For instance, a bank might lend a number of mortgages to homeowners, then bundle these mortgage loans into a larger pool, and issue securities (which are investment instruments) supported or backed by this pool. Investors buy these securities, and their returns are generated by the homeowners’ mortgage payments. This whole process makes additional capital available to banks for further lending, which stimulates and supports the housing market.Consequently, RMBSs are critical conduits for capital flow in the economy, promoting liquidity and credit availability. By letting banks transfer mortgage-related risk to investors, it encourages them to issue more mortgages and lend more money. This, in turn, can lead to expansion in home ownership as more prospective homeowners have access to mortgage loans. In short, RMBSs provide a bridge between the larger, institutional capital markets and individual homeowners, connecting these distinct financial realms to facilitate more extensive and diverse investment opportunities.


1. Great Financial Crisis (2007-2008): The most renowned example of Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities in recent history is their notable contribution to the Great Financial Crisis in 2007-2008. Many financial institutions in the U.S. packaged and sold subprime mortgages (loans made to individuals with poor credit scores) into RMBS. When the housing market declined, many homeowners defaulted on their loans, leading to the collapse of the RMBS market. The subsequent unraveling of the RMBS market led to significant losses for banks and investors and was a key contributing factor to the global financial recession.2. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae: These two U.S. government-sponsored enterprises are prominently engaged in the RMBS market. Both organizations buy residential mortgage loans, bundle them into securities, and sell them to investors, offering assurance of payment even if the borrowers default on their loans. This process facilitates a steady flow of mortgage credit and stabilizes the U.S. housing market by making home ownership more accessible.3. JPMorgan’s $13 billion Settlement (2013): In a response to the events of the 2008 financial crisis, JPMorgan Chase had to settle various federal and state charges for $13 billion in 2013. The organization was sued for appearing to package and sell risky residential mortgages as low-risk investments to investors through the RMBS market. After the housing market crash, these securities significantly dropped in value, causing substantial losses to investors.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Residential Mortgage-Backed Security (RMBS)?

A Residential Mortgage-Backed Security (RMBS) is a type of asset-backed security that is securitized by a pool of mortgages on residential property. These mortgages are bundled together and sold as an investment product to investors.

How does an RMBS work?

The process of RMBS begins with a bank or other financial institution giving out loans to those who want to buy a home. These home loans are then grouped together into a large pool. This pool of mortgages is then sold to a securities dealer, who repackages them into an investment known as the Residential Mortgage-Backed Security.

Who are the buyers of RMBS?

Typically, buyers of RMBS are institutional investors. These might include pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds. Usually, these investors are looking for a secure asset that provides a regular income stream.

Does investing in RMBS carry risks?

Like any investment, RMBS does come with its own set of risks. The most notable one being the credit risk, which is the possibility of homeowners defaulting on their mortgages. Another risk is prepayment risk where homeowners repay their mortgages earlier than expected, often because of refinancing when interest rates fall.

How does an investor make money from an RMBS?

An investor earns income from an RMBS through the interest and principal payments made by the homeowners on the underlying mortgages. The payments are distributed to the investors according to the terms of the security.

What caused the RMBS market crash in 2008?

The RMBS market crash in 2008 was primarily due to the issuance of RMBS backed by subprime mortgages. High numbers of defaults on these subprime mortgages led to significant losses for those who held these securities.

What role do credit rating agencies play in RMBS?

Credit rating agencies assess the credit quality of the RMBS based on the riskiness of the underlying mortgage loans. They assign ratings to RMBS which help investors understand the level of risk associated with that particular investment. However, it’s important to note that higher ratings don’t guarantee safety, as was evident during the 2008 financial crisis.

Is investing in RMBS suitable for all kinds of investors?

As with all types of investments, whether or not RMBS is suitable for an investor depends on their individual risk tolerance, investment horizon, and investment objectives. It’s important to remember that while RMBS can offer a regular income stream, they also carry certain risks. It’s always advisable to seek professional financial advice before making such investments.

Related Finance Terms

  • Tranches
  • Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs)
  • Securitization
  • Underwriting Process
  • Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV)

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