Strategic Default- Going John Galt on the Banks
What is a “strategic default” you ask? A strategic default is the decision by a borrower to stop making payments on a debt despite having the financial ability to make the payments. In other words, just walk away. Business does this all the time, and even uses the Bankruptcy Code to do it- See KMart. Some may call this unethical or immoral, but I am advocating making this decision as a financial one.
If you are sitting in a house that you owe $225,000 on, and that house is only worth $100,000 you WILL NEVER see a dime from the investment that you made in your home. Even if the housing market were to bounce back this year, and home prices increased at their historic rates of 5%, in 20 years your house would be worth $265,000 and you will have paid $372,000 in interest and principal in that time.
Sometimes you have to recognize a bad investment and cut your losses. If you owned a stock that had lost 50% of its value, would you keep dumping money into it? Of course not. The more you pay into this investment, the more you lose.
In the above example, I hold on to that home, and lose $107,000. If I had walked away in year one, and bought another (identical) home in year 5 for $161,000, I can still sell that home for $265,000 in year 20, but I would have only paid $124,000 in payments during the 15 years I “owned” it. Even assuming that I rented a house for the 5 years that my credit was damaged, I still come out with a $75,000 profit, and I am more than $150,000 ahead of where I would have been had I stayed in the home.
Sure, a strategic default will hurt your credit. What will losing $200,000 by holding on to a losing investment (the house) do to you? In exchange, you get to take the money you were using to pay your mortgage and pay off other debts during the year or so it will take them to foreclose. Just be careful if you plan on using bankruptcy as an out: skipping the mortgage to pay the credit cards is a no-no. Talk to your attorney.
The IRS may want taxes on any money that is not collected, but until December of 2012, that is not the case for mortgages used to pay for a primary residence. Talk to your attorney or tax professional.
Unless you declare bankruptcy, your mortgager may come after you for the deficiency balance.
If you are going to do it, make your preparations and do it before the banks have their way in the Legislature and make Florida a non-judicial foreclosure state. They are trying to game the system by throwing large amounts of cash at Florida’s Lawmakers. Get out while you still can. I know this isn’t for everyone, but this is really worth a look.
I have put a great deal of thought into this. We still haven’t seen the bottom yet. Interest rates are climbing, and the adjustable rate notes will be adjusting. Phase two of the housing crash is coming.