9OYS Consumer Watch
Underwater mortgage: walk away or continue to pay?
Big increase in number of "strategic defaults"
Reporter: Jennifer Waddell
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's the "in" thing to do, but is it good for the economy? The "in" thing to do is to get out of your house. If you're like many homeowners, your house is worth a fraction of what you paid for it.
And, if you're like other homeowners who can still afford the monthly payments, the banks won't even consider talking to you.
Charles Knapp is a Tucson realtor and he alone has seen close to 30 of his friends, family and coworkers enter into strategic defaults: AKA walking away. He says it's a decision not to make lightly.
Strategic defaults are different from a standard foreclosure procedure in that the homeowner is capable of paying the mortgage, he or she just doesn't want the burden of a radically devalued home.
9OYS talked with a Tucson homeowner who is currently in the process of walking away. He worked with the banks to no avail, saw that he might never get a return on his investment, and after 2 years of researching and considering all options, he decided to walk away.
He is not alone. While the number of foreclosures has dropped in the past year, the number of people in strategic mortgages as skyrocketed. We talked with Chad Ruyle, co-founder of youwalkaway.com. Chad told us most people who enter strategic default are financially savvy, business smart and have good credit scores. Because they enter the default with excellent credit - and the default is typically the only mark on their credit - they see their credit scores rebound within 1 to 2 years. "We're seeing people who foreclose, their scores within the first or second year after moving back up into some good numbers," Ruyle told 9OYS.
John Strobeck is a Tucson market researcher who crunches the numbers. He says regardless of the reason, foreclosures hurt the market and we're not out of the foreclosure business yet. Having said that, Strobeck also understands why homeowners who are able to do it, strategically walk away. "Hmmm, if I'm gonna sit here and pay 3,000 a month for this house and it's going to take me 15 years before I am even even with the value then I'm not going to sit here and do that when I can leave and sometime in the future buy it for half that amount."
Here's the kicker on this concept, and one of the reasons so many people in Arizona are in strategic defaults: Arizona is a non-recourse state. What does that mean? Well, in short, it means that borrowers are not held personally liable for more than the home's value at the time that the loan is repaid. if the ultimate foreclosure sale doesn't satisfy the loan's value, the lender takes the loss. That could change, though. An Arizona lawmaker is trying to change the law that reverses the non-recourse status. We'll let you know what happens.