Mortgage defaults are getting all the attention, but the numbers show that people walking away from their home-equity loans is a bigger problem.
Last year, lenders had to take a hit on $11.1 billion of uncollectible home-equity loans and $19.9 billion of home-equity lines of credit, more than they wrote off on primary mortgages, according to government data, The New York Times reports.
The trend has continued into this year, with combined home-equity write-offs of $7.88 billion in the first quarter.
Even when banks pursue legal action they rarely get back more than 10 percent of the loan.
“People got 90 cents for free,” Christopher Combs, a real-estate lawyer in Phoenix, told the Times. “It rewards immorality, to some extent.”
During the real-estate bubble, homeowners took out trillions of dollars in home-equity loans.
In the wake of the Great Recession, they can’t or won’t pay it back. And lenders have little recourse, because homeowners can threaten bankruptcy and the collateral – their home values – has shriveled, the Times explains.
On the primary mortgage front, the wave of defaults has spread from the “sand” states to the Midwest and Northwest.
Foreclosure rates in Utah, Idaho, Illinois and Colorado now rank in the top 10 among states, according to research firm RealtyTrac.
“The housing downturn started late in the Northwest, and now it’s ending late,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told Bloomberg.
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