Next wave of foreclosures could be borrowers’ choice
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Big Banking and Big Government are ponderously, and reluctantly, working together to craft programs to alleviate homeowners’ foreclosure pain. Some are semi-voluntary on the banking side, others are mandated, such as the recent multi-billion dollar settlement with the mega-banks in connection with procedural foreclosure mess, featuring that Orwellian creation of “robo-signers.”
Although the programs are in their infancy, and functioning at about the same coordination level as a 1-year-old toddler, Fannie, Freddie and their good friends at Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other big financial entities, are working to help some homeowners facing foreclosure. There is a very dim, but visible, ray of hope for those who can’t make their payments.
But what about those who can, but don’t want to?
It’s doubtful whether anybody really has a handle on the number of borrowers who owe far more on their homes than they’re worth, and are deciding that it makes no sense to continue feeding a dead horse. Increasingly, people are walking away from big payments on assets that have lost much of their value.
Some observers opine that this will constitute the next great wave of foreclosures, further postponing the recovery of the housing market, and the national, and ultimately, the world economy. This is by no means certain, however. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds to simply drop the keys in the mailbox.
Negotiating a so-called “short sale” of the property, wherein the lender releases its lien on the property in exchange for a payoff in amount less than is actually owed, can be a complex process, fraught with some risk for the borrower. When a borrower decides to just stop making payments, and let the lender foreclose, there can be the risk of the lender selling the home for less than the loan amount, and possibly bringing suit against the borrower for the difference. And then there’s a moral issue that may lurk in the psyche of some homeowners. When it gets right down to it, they don’t want the stigma of a foreclosure on their consciences or their credit reports.
But people are definitely doing the math. The thinking might go like this: “I can decrease my monthly outlay by x thousand per month, rent cheaply, and save y thousands. Then, by the time my credit is repaired, in a few years, I’ll have enough saved for a down payment on the kind of home that I want at a reasonable price.” It’s hard to argue with that logic, although lenders might try, by bringing a deficiency suit against the borrower.
Humans, being blessed, or cursed, with human nature, will think of a creative variation on this. Like the story about the borrowers with good jobs who were current on their below-water mortgage. They spotted their dream home, twice the house as their present property, with a distressed sales price at less than their current mortgage. So, they bought the new house from an eager seller, and then walked away from their old mortgage, probably figuring that they wouldn’t be getting another home loan any time soon, so why worry about a ding on their credit.
It’ll be interesting to see how this installment of the Great Meltdown plays out. For sure, there are a lot of people who bought or refinanced on the top of the bubble.
Pat Dalrymple is a valley native. He’s been in the mortgage and banking business since 1961. He’ll be happy to answer your questions or hear your comments. His e-mail is email@example.com.
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