60 Minutes examines epidemic of homeowners who walk away from underwater homes

A million Americans who could afford to pay their mortgages on homes “underwater” walked away instead. It’s the “in thing” one tells Morley Safer in a report to be broadcast this Sunday, May 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Play CBS Video Video Excerpt: Walking Away From Your Mortgage

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Chris Deaner could still make the mortgage payments on the home he bought but chose not to, forcing the bank to begin foreclosure proceedings. And there’s an estimated million more like him. He’s part of a rising epidemic of Americans who, despite having the money, walked away from homes “underwater,” or worth less than their mortgages.

“60 Minutes” correspondent Morley Safer reports on “strategic default,” a trend that could hurt the economic recovery, this Sunday, May 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

In Arizona, where Deaner lives, half of the homes are “underwater.” So he wasn’t the only one walking away from a house and mortgage, says the Sun City resident. “It’s almost like the in thing to do right now, it seems like,” he tells Safer. He paid $262,000 for his home at the height of the boom, only to see it fall to an estimated $142,000. He says he tried to renegotiate his $250,000 mortgage, but his bank refused because he could afford the payments. “I thought, initially, it was immoral. My family raised me to believe?you should take care of your contract liabilities,” says Deaner.

He’ll get a bad credit rating for his action, but says he’ll save enough money to overcome that when he decides to buy a home again. Deaner says he doesn’t feel any responsibility for walking away. Then, reminded by Safer that if everybody in his position did what he did, the economy would be even worse, he says, “If that starts happening, then that’s for the professionals to figure out.”

The professionals have already taken notice. Banks are afraid the trend will spread to average homeowners and the CEO of Citibank’s mortgage unit estimates that one out of five borrowers defaulting on mortgages now are able to pay – a trend that could continue and harm the economic recovery by overburdening the banks with bad loans and real estate they can’t sell.

No banks would agree to speak to “60 Minutes” about strategic default.

Right now the burden of strategic default is being borne by the homeowners in the same place as Deaner who decided to stay in their homes and continue paying. Without them, the banks would be in much worse shape. Tom Hansen of Scottsdale, Ariz., who paid $1.2 million for a home worth maybe $850,000 now, says it’s a matter of conscience for him. He’ll stay put – for now at least. “I just would not be comfortable walking away?maybe at some point in time?but right now I’m not,” he tells Safer.


7 Responses to “60 Minutes examines epidemic of homeowners who walk away from underwater homes”
  1. amy says:

    It was the BANKS who made financially inappropriate loans 5, 6, 7 years ago to people who could not afford them. I can afford my house, I am a working attorney; I put $100k down on my house and am making the payments just fine. BUT my house has lost value (because of aforementioned bankers and purchasers) and I owe more than the house is worth. PLEASE give me ONE reason not to strategically default. ONE REASON – besides credit …. go on … let me hear it …

    Couple of questions for the professionals – #1 – how can you rent a house once you get evicted / foreclosure goes through? You need credit don’t you? I know I will be saving about $2800 monthly for the 18 – 24 months it takes them to get me out of the house … but how do you rent a place without credit?

    #2 – can the mortgage company sue you for the deficiency in florida? Do you have to protect your assets?

  2. Alina says:

    Strategic default is something that Donald Trump considers great business sense. As a matter of fact, he uses strategic default coupled with a bankruptcy cram down to refi his holdings. So, what is so wrong with a homeowner doing the same thing? These are business decisions – good and sound business decisions. Yet a homeowenr is tagged as a deadbeat scumbag.

    Additionally, the banks go running with their hands outstretched to the government for help in paying their bills. The government gives the banks our hard earned money and in exchange ask that the banks help struggling homeowners. Do they? No, they pocket our money, throw us out of our homes, tag us as deadbeats, and the cuop de grace is a ruined credit score that will take decades to recoup.

    Something needs to change here. Homeowners need to be given the same tools to protect their financial assets that the banks have.

  3. So, let’s see if we get this straight.

    Banks make bad business decisions = Get bailed out with our money

    Homeowners make business decisions after relying on information presented by the very entity who benefits by the homeowner making a very bad decision = Homeowner gets foreclosed and the family ends up homeless.

    Bankers get bonuses = Homeowners get evicted

    Bankers “walk away” from bad debt and leave the government to make them whole = Homeowners “walk away” from bad debt and are saddled with a poor credit rating and an industry move to stigmatize the very act that they themselves are doing with impunity.


  4. 2 Pirates over 40 says:

    Didn’t the Bankers Association just default on the loan they had on they’re own building in N.Y.,
    I don’t think they had any remorse when they did that. In they’re minds it was all about a good financial business decision at that time. What about all the big commercial loans going into default right now,same thing happening, they’re walking away from those so-called obligations as well. Whats good from them should be equally as good for any homeowner walking away.

  5. Michael says:

    So it’s bad for the economy if people walk away so they shouldn’t do it. But it was fine for the banks to purposefully pump inflation to make home prices rise, increasing housing costs for all, while shorting the underlying securities they were selling.

    Then there was no moral problem for the banks to accept a massive taxpayer bailout allowing them to collect the full face value of the notes rather than have the notes sold in liquidation auctions for fair market value, probably 5-10 percent of face value. That, the free market at work, would have allowed the note buyers — who the government may have allowed to be the person living in the place — to renegotiate with the borrowers and throwing the “sophisticated investors” who lent the original money under the bus where they belonged.

    The modification programs sound more and more like a modern version of “let them eat cake.”

  6. I wish they’d talk about the “blackballing” of honest appraisers – putting 10’s of thousands of good, honest & experienced appraisers out of business for nothing more than being “honest” about what properties were worth.

    The appraisal regulation that came subsequent to the S&L crisis (where mainly overvalued commercial real estate holdings were re-appraised downward & taxpayers picked up the difference) has been pitiful to say the least.

    Consumers are required to pay for Appraisals and a vast array of other settlement services while industry insiders vandalize the appraisal & title industry with our own money. This s**t is maddening to say the least!

    Larry Levy’s “The Fraud of Appraisal Regulation”

    Pamela Crowley’s interview with CBS’s Katie Couric on Blackballing Honest Appraisers

  7. The banks are to blame. Everytime they UNNECESSARILY foreclose on a home, the values of the other homes in the area DROP ONE PERCENT.

    Too bad sixty minutes won’t cover the aspect of people with PLENTY of home equity but who are trying to searching for the right job and therefore are not eligible to take out home equity in their own home that they may have spent 10, 20, or 30 years building up!

    Banks foreclosing on people who STILL HAVE EQUITY in their home? That is every bit as outrageous and NOBODY is covering this aspect of the economic crisis.

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