Are the rich the biggest strategic defaulters?

It would seem so from the statistics compiled by the New York Times. The article leads in by suggesting the rich are ‘losing their home but given the talk about strategic default earlier in the year (see here), you should wonder whether these are defaults due to distress or out of sheer financial calculation. This statistic jumped out at me:

More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars is seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic.

By contrast, homeowners with less lavish housing are much more likely to keep writing checks to their lender. About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent.

Why would there be this differential given the stress on budgets felt by homebuyers below the million dollar mark? Could this have anything to do with a lack of liquidity in the jumbo market?  I doubt it. It looks very much like strategic defaults at play. The New York Times comes to the same conclusion, saying:

Though it is hard to prove, the CoreLogic data suggest that many of the well-to-do are purposely dumping their financially draining properties, just as they would any sour investment.

“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.

This article has a lot of anecdotes on high-end defaulters – not all of them strategic.

Source: Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages Are the Rich – NY Times


Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty five years of business experience. He has also been a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College.

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