Million-Dollar Homeowners Defaulting At Double The Rate Of Others

The mortgage crisis isn’t just about homeowners with underwater subprime mortgages on unsellable houses. Folks with million-dollar homes are also finding it difficult to get out from under their hefty mortgages, and are defaulting at rates that are double those for homeowners with mortgages under $250,000. The difference? They’re often willing to sell at a loss, and their lenders are willing to let them do so, instead of foreclosing and destroying their credit ratings.

According to Bloomberg:

Payments on about 12 percent of mortgages exceeding $1 million were 90 days or more overdue in September, compared with 6.3 percent on loans less than $250,000 and 7.4 percent on all U.S. mortgages, according to data from First American CoreLogic Inc., a Santa Ana, California-based research firm. The rate for mortgages above $1 million was 4.7 percent a year earlier.

As defaults on the biggest mortgages rise, borrowers such as Steve Holzknecht are turning to short sales to exit loans that now are larger than the market value of the house. In such a transaction, the lender agrees to accept less than a 100 percent payoff on a mortgage to expedite the property’s sale.

Holzknecht, 53, last month cut the asking price for his 7,280-square-foot home in Kirkland, Washington, by $550,000 to $1.25 million, lower than the balances of his two mortgages. Holzknecht, the former owner of Four Suns Inc., a Seattle luxury homebuilder that went out of business two months ago, constructed the Craftsman-style home in 2000. He declined to identify his lenders or the amount he owe

One reason rich howeowners may be willing to take a haircut (other than, you know, being rich), is that they’re not about to get any help from the government “The reason the low end stopped falling is because the government stepped in with affordable loans,” Scott Simon, managing director at Pacific Investment Management, told Bloomberg. “There is no political will to bail out a million-dollar house.”

Luxury-Home Owners in U.S. Use ‘Short Sales’ as Defaults Rise [ Bloomberg.com]