- May 25, 2002
- Professional Status
- Certified Residential Appraiser
Fitch Ratings, while telling investors last Friday to expect additional "widespread and significant downgrades" on $139 billion worth of subprime loans, has cited a new factor in their "worsening performance."
"The apparent willingness of borrowers to 'walk away' from mortgage debt," the analysts noted, "has contributed to extraordinary high levels of early default" on loans issued during the 18 months before the mortgage bubble burst. It expects losses to reach 21% of initial loan balances for subprime mortgages issued in 2006 and 26% for those issued in early 2007.
Such behavior, where not precipitated by willful fraud, shows that American homebuyers supposedly duped by their lenders aren't so dumb. They're perfectly capable of acting rationally without political interference
Essentially, mortgage-bond investors, seemingly unwittingly, sold homebuyers a put option, without properly pricing it, and now homeowners are exercising that option. Moreover, prime borrowers in many markets face the same incentives.
Yes, this behavior is new -- but only when it comes to houses. Americans have long been able to cut their losses from bad investments and start over. It stands to reason that when the market made houses into yet another speculative investment, Americans would do the same.
Borrowers acted rationally in response to market forces and incentives during the bubble: Buy a house because prices always go up; you can't lose. Many are acting rationally now: Mail the keys back and un-borrow the money, because prices are sinking fast while the debt isn't. When the house was purchased not as a first home but as a rental investment, the decision is even easier.
Imagine: Politicians keep saying that Americans need protection from their big, bad lenders -- but that protection is already there.
Nobody is going to debtors' prison. Nobody is going to have to toil for 30 years and sacrifice their kids' future to pay off burdensome loans that they're stuck with forever because they overreached. (Even if banks and mortgage administrators pursue judgments for post-foreclosure loan balances, there's always bankruptcy as a last resort.)
As for Sen. Hillary Clinton and her proposed "moratorium on foreclosures": She may soon find that borrowers, not just lenders, are screaming to let them act within their contractual rights