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Rich Homeowners Walking Away from Mortgage Loans

Think the rich are immune to the housing crisis? You would be wrong. According to the New York Times, “more than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent.”

Walking Away from Home Loans

CoreLogic compiled data that indicate that people with less expensive homes are more likely to continue making payments to mortgage lenders. “Though it is hard to prove, the CoreLogic data suggest that many of the well-to-do are purposely dumping their financially draining properties, just as they would any sour investment,” the article states. Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist, was quoted as saying, “The rich are different: they are more ruthless.”

Strategic mortgage defaults have become more common as the housing market has struggled to recover. Some homeowners have simply stopped paying on mortgage loans because  they see no point in putting money into properties that have lost significant value. It’s not that they can’t afford to make payments on home loans, they just don’t want to.

Falling Home Prices

According to a recent article on Freddie Mac’s Web site, many strategic defaulters live in states where housing prices have suffered huge drops. Walking away from homes, the article argues, hurts entire communities in the long run:

That’s because strategic defaults affect many other families and communities. And these costs – or as they are known in economic jargon, externalities – are not factored into the individual borrower’s calculations.

Let’s start with the neighbors. When strategic defaults occur, homes go into foreclosure and sit vacant for some period of time. We know from experience that foreclosures and vacancies drive down the property values of everyone else in the neighborhood. Thus, strategic defaulters, in effect, deplete the personal wealth of their neighbors. 

Average Joe and Jane

Ultimately, it’s the average homeowner who is likely to be affected the most. A middle-class family that loses a home through foreclosure is likely to struggle for years to rebuild a stable financial situation.

Defaulting on Mortgages and Still Living Large

When people with million-dollar properties default on home loans, they often continue to have access to other financial resources and investments. They may even have a second or third home to move into and continue to live a pretty comfortable lifestyle.

Avoid Defaulting on a Mortgage

Whatever your income level or home’s value, it’s best to do everything you can to avoid defaulting — strategically or otherwise. Alternatives to strategically defaulting include resigning yourself to making mortgage payments even if you’ve lost a lot of home equity and waiting for the market to recover.

You could also try to refinance your mortgage loan to lower your payments and interest. Finally, if necessary, do whatever is necessary to sell your home to get rid of mortgage payments.

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