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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ramsey Su: Allow Foreclosures to Happen

by Calculated Risk on 1/31/2009 04:45:00 PM

My friend Ramsey Su writes in the WSJ: Why Be a Nation of Mortgage Slaves?

Preventing foreclosures has become a top priority of politicians, economists and regulators. In fact, allowing foreclosures to happen has merit ...

If the intent is to help homeowners, then foreclosure is undoubtedly the best solution. Household balance sheets have been destroyed by taking on too much debt via the purchase of inflated assets. With so little savings, a household with negative equity almost implies negative net worth. Walking away from the mortgage immediately repairs the balance sheet.

Credit may be damaged, but homeowners can rebuild it. And by renting something they can afford, instead of the McMansion they cannot, homeowners are most likely to have some money left over each month that they can save toward a down payment on a house they can eventually afford.
What is the market telling us? Dataquick recently released December sales data for Southern California, once the hotbed of speculative excesses supported by nontraditional financing. Foreclosures now dominate sales. Prices are down. Sales volume is up. New home construction is down. These are beautiful textbook illustrations of supply and demand driving price and market equilibrium.
The media should interview those who had been foreclosed upon. Do they feel sorry or relieved? Are they rebuilding their credit, not to mention their lives? Do they miss the pressure of having to make payments they cannot afford on a McMansion that belongs to the lender?
Ramsey makes some very valid points:
  • If a loan modification leaves the homeowner hopelessly underwater, what is the point? That just delays the inevitable and creates what Ramsey calls a "mortgage slave".

  • MEDIA: I'd like to see some interviews with homeowners who went through foreclosure a year ago or more. Usually we see interviews with people in the foreclosure process or who just lost their homes. Ramsey asks some interesting questions: Are they better off today? Do they feel depressed or relieved?