I Guess You Should Have Bought A Bigger House

Posted by Bull Bear Trader | 10/31/2008 08:06:00 AM | , | 0 comments »

The Treasury and FDIC are considering a plan to guarantee about $500 billion of bad mortgages in an attempt to reduce the total number of foreclosures, with an estimated cost of about $50 billion to be paid by the bailout package - i.e., you, Joe and Jane taxpayer (see Bloomberg article). The plan would allow banks to restructure as many as 3 million loans into ones that homeowners would actually be able to afford (imagine that). In other words, the mortgages would be restructured based on a borrower's ability to repay, and not their ability to afford the home. If homeowners also took out a home equity line of credit, no problem. The plan being considered would also cover these second mortgages as well. I guess that will teach those of you that recently bought a home within the last year or two and actually put down the "required" 20% down payment. If you live in Florida, California, or Nevada, that 20% is probably gone. Your neighbor, who put nothing down, will now end up paying back what you have left on your loan, which is about 80% of the original value, or 100% of the current value. Their repayment amount could possibly be even less than you if their ability to repay is still not sufficient. I hoped you learned your lesson. Next time buy a bigger house. And of course, don't forget to remodel the kitchen and bathroom while you are at it.

Fortunately, the plan is still being discussed, so hopefully some steps will be put in place to reduce moral hazard, such as having rates and payments increase as the borrower becomes better able to make payments, or allowing taxpayers to recover some or all of the lost and forgiven loan principal once prices recover and loan to equity values become more favorable. Otherwise, no matter how good the intentions are, or how necessary the plan is, the unintended consequences of rewarding bad behavior and poor decision making will cause confidence in the banks and the housing market to take much longer to recover.