Monday, December 21, 2009

A Brief Intro about Strategic Default

At this point of time, there is a financial crisis facing millions of people and businesses in the United States. The crisis is not limited to a specific socioeconomic group of people. Across the income spectrum, the primary financial problem is debt. What is unique about this current economic crisis is that the debt contagion has also infected financial institutions and has affected local, state, and federal government.

Many people are heavily indebted and are seeking a way out. Financial institutions are not extending credit unless the borrower meets a strict set of criteria. In order to obtain a loan, one must have excellent credit, verifiable income, and substantial cash reserves. This is a tall order for many people and business alike.

One of the greatest forms of wealth comes from real estate ownership. It is now estimated that trillion dollars of real estate wealth has been lost. Furthermore, individuals and investors own properties with unaffordable mortgages payments that have principle balances greater than the value of the property.

There are many people who have decided to “intentionally” stop making mortgage loan payments, even if they can afford to do so. They have decided to make a so called “strategic default”. Generally, the primary rational for a strategic default is economic. Currently, strategic default is associated with home mortgage loans. However, strategic defaults is a tool used for credit card debt, business loans, home equity lines of credit, and personal loans.

There are moral and social issues that arise when making a decision to stop making loan payments even if the money is available. These moral and social issues intersect with an individual’s “rational” decision to stop losing money. Our society general places a strong taboo against breaking an agreement. Furthermore, there are social costs to consider when an individual decides to abandon a property and stop making mortgage payments.

What is a Stategic Default?

Generally, it is considered, a property owner’s decision to stop making mortgage loan payments even if the property owner can afford to make the payments. A property owner normally considers a strategic default when the value of the property is below the mortgage balance due a lender. Furthermore, there is a concern that monthly mortgage loan payments will become a permanent drain of available cash savings with little chance of recovering the loss. The rationale is that it does not make economic sense to make mortgage loan payments on a property that has no equity or any hope of gaining equity.

Strategic defaults are generally associated with individuals who stop making mortgage loan payments. However, we are finding that strategic defaults are being used for credit card payments, business loans, and various personal loans.

I will be discussing strategic defaults in depth in later entries. I am an advocate of stategic defaults when properly considered and effectively implemented.

For now think about it. You may decide to use it yourself.

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