The right thing for whom?
The $26 billion settlement between state Attorneys General and five big mortgage lenders will help a couple of million people who are underwater and/or behind on their home loans.
But it leaves millions more out in the cold.
Two of them are friends of mine, and neighbors of yours. David and June, who in real life go by different first names, are a married couple in their early 40s, are well-known in the community, have good jobs, pay their bills and feel a moral obligation to honor their contracts and commitments.
Yet they are considering walking away from their home.
It's not easy for David, the son of a banker, to contemplate what he has come to know as “strategic default” on his home loan. But after several years of watching the real estate market collapse around him, and feeling the moral ground shift beneath him, he says he feels like “a sucker and a fool” for continuing to squander his family's financial future in order to pay a mortgage based on an inflated past.
David and June were a few months away from welcoming their first child into the world in the summer of 2007, and looking for their first home of their own after years of renting. The North Bay real estate market at the time was lower than its peak a couple of years before, but still on a very hot streak. And even though a median home price of nearly $600,000 seemed well out of their range, the couple felt like their chance for home ownership was slipping away as they watched house after house they were interested in sell for more than the asking price.
“There was fierce competition for every house we looked at,” David said. “We would make an offer and there would be several others making bids. In one case, there were 15 or 16 others.”
After losing out on several homes, they found an older three-bedroom house in a middle-class neighborhood, a little more than 1,000 square feet. It was listed at $539,000. They offered $536,000. This time, their offer was accepted.