The LA Times is reporting Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, says that it’s in the homeowners’ best financial interest to stiff their lenders and that it’s not immoral to do so. I commented on this story twice before but it’s worth another recap.
Go ahead. Break the chains. Stop paying on your mortgage if you owe more than the house is worth. And most important: Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t think you’re doing something morally wrong.
That’s the incendiary core message of a new academic paper by Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, titled “Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis.”
“Homeowners should be walking away in droves,” White said. “But they aren’t. And it’s not because the financial costs of foreclosure outweigh the benefits.”
Sure, credit scores get whacked when you walk away, he acknowledges. But as long as you stay current with other creditors, “one can have a good credit rating again — meaning above 660 — within two years after a foreclosure.”
Better yet, homeowners can default “strategically”: Buy all the major items they’ll need for the next couple of years — a new car, even a new house — just before they pull the plug on their current mortgage lender.
“Most individuals should be able to plan in advance for a few years of limited credit,” White said, with minimal disruptions to their lifestyles.
What kind of law school professorial advice is this? Aren’t mortgages legal contracts? In so-called anti-deficiency states such as California and Arizona, mortgage lenders have limited or no legal rights to pursue defaulting homeowners’ assets beyond the house itself, White said. In other states, lenders may decide that it is not worth the legal expense to pursue walkaways, or consumers may be able to find flaws in the mortgage documents, disclosures or underwriting to challenge the original contract.
The main point, he said, is that too often people’s emotions get in the way of clear financial thinking about mortgages, turning them into what he calls “woodheads” — “individuals who choose not to act in their own self-interest.” Most owners are too worried about feelings of shame and embarrassment after a foreclosure, and ignore the powerful financial reasons for doing so.
While I generally agree with the advice, it is extremely important to Consult An Attorney Before Walking Away.
For more on this story please see “Strategic Defaults” a Mortgage Broker Comments on Fear and Shame Tactics which in turn was in response to Government and Lender Policies of Fear and Shame Help Keep Homeowners Debt Slaves.