Over half a million strategic defaulters in 2008

By Felix Salmon
September 21, 2009
Kenneth Harney has got his hands on a fascinating new study from Experian and Oliver Wyman, which looks at the prevalence of strategic mortgage defaults, a/k/a "jingle mail" or "walking away". Unsurprisingly, it's financially sophisticated borrowers in non-recourse states like California who are doing this in droves: apparently there were 588,000 nationwide strategic defaults in 2008, more than double the total in 2007.

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Kenneth Harney has got his hands on a fascinating new study from Experian and Oliver Wyman, which looks at the prevalence of strategic mortgage defaults, a/k/a “jingle mail” or “walking away”. Unsurprisingly, it’s financially sophisticated borrowers in non-recourse states like California who are doing this in droves: apparently there were 588,000 nationwide strategic defaults in 2008, more than double the total in 2007.

This is a perfectly rational and ethically defensible thing to do, but subprime borrowers, almost by definition, tend not to have the sophistication to default in the most financially-advantageous way.

Interestingly, the Experian-Wyman study (if anybody has a copy of it, do send it on over) recommends “that lenders and loan servicers take steps to screen and identify strategic defaulters in advance”. I’d love to know how lenders are meant to do that. Credit score obviously isn’t a good indicator, so what is? Financial literacy?

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