In the years immediately following the financial crisis, no small amount of space on WSO was dedicated to the debate over what should be done about those Regular Joes who were caught in the crossfire of the mortgage mess and were losing their homes right and left. The subject of strategic foreclosure came up repeatedly, and in my opinion was one of the more interesting debates in the history of the site. For better or worse, a lot of folks in the general public got a government bailout, which seemed fair at the time at least on a prima facie basis because of all the handouts the banks were getting.
So now that we've put a few years distance between then and now, how did all that charity work out?
About like most of us expected, frankly. In a study released earlier this week, it was revealed that 30% of those homeowners who received a bailout have already defaulted again. What's worse is that the remaining 70% are about to go through a mortgage reset, which will no doubt shake a few more out of the deadbeat tree.
"The program was a temporary Band-Aid," said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "Five years later, that Band-Aid is going to be ripped off."
The initiative was based on the flawed assumption that the economy would bounce back more quickly, undoing the damage wrought by plunging home prices and high unemployment. The program lowered the monthly mortgage payments of qualified borrowers for five years, presumably long enough for them to regain their financial footing.
So it looks like some pretty crazy assumptions were made and the chickens are coming home to roost. Maybe one of you can explain to me how policy makers expected incomes to rise immediately following the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression when they hadn't for the previous two decades.
The good news is that the program wasn't really all that effective to begin with, so we're not talking about a ton of foreclosures looming. Even if every single person who received a mortgage modification defaulted, we're only talking about 800,000 loans.
I'll leave you with the following tale of woe that is probably illustrative of at least a plurality of the folks who received modifications. It's just one bad financial decision after another with these folks:
Barbara Irving feels vulnerable. Irving said her family is doing better financially but not well enough to withstand a higher loan payment. When times were good, she and her husband were close to selling their home in Texas and moving into a new one they were building. But the housing bubble burst, and suddenly they had two mortgages to juggle.
Unable to keep up with the payments, they lost their first home to foreclosure and got the mortgage on their second home modified through HAMP in 2009, she said. But they recently were notified that the monthly payments eventually would increase by hundreds of dollars.
Now in their 60s, Irving and her husband are earning much less than they were before the economy soured, she said. They cannot refinance or sell, because they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.
"We are living on a super-tight budget with only one car and just cannot afford any increase," said Irving, a housing counselor. "It would be a struggle to make payments."
Don't be that guy.
Mod note: Blast from the Past - "Best of Eddie." This was originally posted in March 2014.