Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moonwalking Away Goes Mainstream

Via US News & World Report:

Strategic Defaults and the Foreclosure Crisis [I really wish they would stop calling it a foreclosure "crisis." Debt is the disease and foreclosure is the cure--why don't people realize foreclosure is ultimately a good thing?]

Nearly a year after the Obama administration unveiled its ambitious housing rescue program, foreclosure tallies continue to break records. Foreclosure filings were reported on more than 2.8 million properties in 2009, up 21 percent from the previous year and 120 percent from 2007, according to RealtyTrac. With nearly 10 percent of mortgages now delinquent--which is also a new record--even more homeowners appear headed for foreclosure this year. "A massive supply of delinquent loans continues to loom over the housing market," RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio said in a statement. "Many of those delinquencies will end up in the foreclosure process in 2010 and beyond."

Homeowners have found themselves in foreclosure for a number of reasons. Some purchased properties they could never really afford. Others lost their jobs--the national unemployment rate remains in the double digits--and had no way to make mortgage payments. But as the crisis rumbles forward, an additional driver of home foreclosures has become clear: Many borrowers have the means to keep paying the mortgage but are simply walking away because they believe it's best for their finances.

The number of so called "strategic defaults" more than doubled, to 588,000, from 2007 to 2008, according to a study by Experian and Oliver Wyman. A separate 2009 survey found that more than a quarter of all existing defaults were strategic. Meanwhile, a growing number of academics are touting the financial benefits of walking away. "Homeowners should be walking away in droves," Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, said in a recent paper. "The financial costs of foreclosure, while not insignificant, are minimal compared to the financial benefit of strategic default."

The case for strategically defaulting is linked to negative equity, or owing more on your home than it is worth. With home prices at the national level having dropped roughly 30 percent from their 2006 peaks--and a great deal more in certain bubble markets--a considerable chunk of property owners are now in this fix. Nearly 1 in 4 borrowers currently have negative equity, according to First American CoreLogic. And rather than continuing to make payments on an investment that's now worth significantly less than what they paid for it, many borrowers are throwing in the towel.



1 comment:

  1. El Bee, You might enjoy this story at "Fund Manager guards against housing double dip". Thanks for all you do.