One of my best friends is seriously thinking about walking away from his mortage via a strategic default. But his guilt and sense of moral obligation and ethical responsibiliies are killing him. He wants my opinion... he bought his home in 2007 for about $850,000 and it is now worth only $550,000. His payments are going to almost tripled the amount he currently pays in about a year. A strategic default occurs when a homeowner stops paying their mortgage even though they are still financially able to do so.
I told him the standard Realtor talk: I could not tell him what to do, he needed to talk to a his bank about possible options for a loan modification, also to talk to his CPA to understand potential tax liabilities, and to a lawyer for potential legal ramifications, and to consider the hit on his credit scores.
Then we went off record, and as friends we discussed the issue in an open manner. I do not understand why is the homeowner the one that is supposed to be the only responsible party and to pay up and not go back on his promise to hold his own. A loan after all, is a business transaction between an investor and his partner, the borrower. The Investor puts up the money and expects a return in his investment, the borrower agrees to make payments until the loan has been paid off completely. Investor makes his money back plus some helfty profits and the borrower will end up with the property free and clear, hopefully worth a small fortune.
There is no investment of any kind that has no risk at all. Lenders have always reaped good returns on those investments, and traditionally have had good safeguards against losing. They even have Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) that they ask the borrowers to pay for, and the government has a golden parachute to bail them out. How come they do not have moral or ethical obligations to make them feel guilty? They have scared people into staying in their homes and continue to make payments even though, those houses will remain underwaterl for many years.
Home owners traditionally have paid their mortage, and their house was one of the major debts that they wanted to pay off first. The investors greed helped create the economic collapse, the no-money, interest only loans they sold to unqualified borrowers were irresponsible, they deserve to lose. Home borrowers already lost their downpayment, and their closing costs, along with their dreams, sometimes compiled with the loss of a job and their own self steem. Why should they feel guilty about losing the house? why should they be the only ones asked to be moraly and ethically correct? The lenders have recovered quickly and will go on making money. Homeowners, however, will take years to recover, if ever.
We concluded that as equal partners in this transactions with the banks, homeowners should be able to call it quits, accept the loses and go forward and not feel guilty about a strategic default. Making high payments on a house that has no chance of providing a return for years to come is not in the homeowners best economic interest.
My friend will let the house go, and start the recovery period, knowing that nobody will loan him money for at least 3-7 years. He will rent for a while, save money and be prepared to invest in homeownership again... sometime down the road. He realized that he has nothing to be ashamed off, or guilty of, he will lose his down payment or initial investment, it was a risk he took, the lender took a risk too, it is after all, a simple business transaction that did not pay off for either party. If you make a bad investment, you have the right to walk away from it.
Antonio & Alexia Cardenas
"The Realtors In Motion"
CRS, GRI, E-Pro Certified. SFR (Short Sales, Forclosure Resource) Serving the east shores of the San Francisco Bay, Alameda county: specially the following cities: Castro Valley, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, Oakland, Pleasanton & Dublin.
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