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Friday, April 25, 2008

Subprime in Greenwich

by Tanta on 4/25/2008 06:55:00 AM

Well, no, they're "affluent." And they're not like us.

From "Pain of Foreclosure Spreads to the Affluent," in the ever-dependable NYT:

“We never had a case that had gone through three separate sales attempts,” he said, still dazed that the auction failed to take place. “Greenwich being Greenwich, foreclosures are a rare occurrence.”

Rare, perhaps, but not unheard-of, as the housing industry collapse starts to claim victims among the affluent. Personal traumas like business reversal, illness and divorce play a role. There’s no real pattern, with people as diverse as builders, restaurateurs and poker players at risk of losing their homes.
And us plebes outside of Greenwich, on the other hand, fit into nice neat categories? I see.

Well, I for once have seen this "real pattern" before:
As for the four-bedroom colonial that just avoided going on the block, Zbigniew Skwarek, the 41-year-old owner, came up with his own money to postpone the auction. Court records show he stopped paying on his mortgage on Feb. 1, 2007. But three days before the scheduled auction, he said, he gave his lender a check for $50,000.

Mr. Skwarek may not live in one of Greenwich’s most coveted neighborhoods. But like many residents here, he owns other properties, including an apartment in Greenwich and a home in Florida, and he can tap into that equity.

“I don’t want to lose this house,” Mr. Skwarek said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Skwarek rented out the house after he divorced his wife, Renata, in 2004, because, he said, it felt too big to live in alone. But last year, he said, his renters, John and Arline Josephberg, stopped paying their monthly rent of $10,000.

While living there, Mr. Josephberg — who previously ran the financial firm Josephberg Grosz & Company — was put on trial, accused of not paying his taxes for 29 years. He was sentenced to 50 months in prison. By the time the couple moved out in January, they owed Mr. Skwarek $90,000. Calls made to Mrs. Josephberg and to the couple’s daughter were not returned.

But public records show that Mr. Skwarek had trouble paying his bills even before he rented out his home. Court documents show that he also owes construction and supply companies more than $200,000 for unpaid bills on his home.

In the past four years, he has been in court several times over unpaid bills. He has a felony conviction for not paying wages to his workers and a misdemeanor for issuing a bad check. He was sued in small claims court for not paying his divorce lawyer. His former wife said that his money troubles contributed to the end of their marriage.

“I was sick about how he took care of the bills,” Ms. Skwarek said. “He didn’t change.”
I am not sure we have established that Mr. Skwarek is "affluent," but he is clearly "subprime." He just has a rather larger subprime loan than us average Joes and Joettas--you know, the kind Mr. Skwarek failed to pay wages to, the kind who may have needed those wages to make their own mortgage nut. This does, though, create one difference--unlike your run of the mill subprime borrower, Mr. Skwarek fervently believes in the kindness and decency of lenders:
Mr. Skwarek has still not figured out how he will hold on to his home. He will try to rent it again, he said. If that doesn’t work, he plans to move in and rent out his apartment. He remains optimistic that foreclosure will never happen and that his lender will help him find a way to escape his financial trap.

“They want to work with people like me,” he said.
I'll bet they do.