Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #033

Here Comes the Next Mortgage Crisis

California is to mortgage lending what Chicago is to pork bellies. For years, that meant it was a place with soaring house values; today, the foreclosure rate across the state is twice the national average and going up fast. Riverside County, outside Los Angeles, may be the foreclosure capital of the country, with a rate close to six times the national average. And housing prices are in freefall.

California should be the poster child for a mortgage-loan bailout. In few other places have so many taken on such onerous debts with so little equity. Unfortunately, the crisis in California is going to get much worse, and there is no bailout that will solve it. Why? Because if the first stage of the foreclosure crisis was about people who could not afford their mortgages, the next stage will be about people who have every reason not even to try to pay their mortgages.

Over the next several months, we’re going to be subjected to a chorus of hand-wringing about the moral turpitude of people who walk away from their mortgages and pronouncements like last month’s warning from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that people should honor their mortgage obligations. The problem with finger-wagging on what you “should” or “ought” to do is that, when it comes to money, you’re usually given the lecture only when it’s in your interest to do the opposite. Certainly, that’s the case for all the California homeowners who in the next year or two are going to find themselves with the choice of whether, faced with a huge new wave of interest resets and a historic decline in the value of their homes, they will simply walk away.

Emphasis added by me.

Wait for it:

Just two banks, Washington Mutual and Countrywide, wrote more than $300 billion worth of option ARMs in the three years from 2005 to 2007, concentrated in California. Others—IndyMac, Golden West (the creator of the option ARM, and now a part of Wachovia)—wrote many billions more. The really amazing thing is that the meltdown in California is already happening and virtually none of these loans have yet reset.

Emphasis in the original.

Here it comes:

Bet on this: Whatever moral qualms are being urged on borrowers to keep them from walking away from their mortgages, they’ll count for a lot less than the economic reality facing borrowers whose homes have fallen in value by half. Lenders had no reservations about selling borrowers loans with rising payments that would be poisonous in a rising market. Now it seems borrowers have no reservations about leaving those lenders with the risks they begged to take.

Emphasis added by me.

So another piece of the Depression 2.0 Puzzle falls into place.

But what worries me: There is something out there that none of us have heard of yet. A financial scheme so adroit and yet so sub-rosa that only a very few financiers know about.

That thing is going to blow up.

I don’t know what it is. But I do know it’s out there.

Explore posts in the same categories: C.O.A.T. - Money, C.O.A.T. - Other, C.O.A.T. - Scams, Depression 2.0

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