Jingle-mail datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
October 12, 2009
explains how "because it underwrites low-cost housing for high-risk groups, the FHA's problems are particularly acute":

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Time looks at the problem of jingle mail, and explains how “because it underwrites low-cost housing for high-risk groups, the FHA’s problems are particularly acute”:

Homeowners of a new and unattractive breed are plaguing the Federal Housing Administration these days. Known as “the walkaways,” they are people who find themselves unable to meet their mortgage payments—and to solve the problem simply move out their belongings at night, drop their house key in the mailbox and disappear… In seven South Florida counties, walkaways have abandoned 3,000 FHA-guaranteed homes in the past twelve months.

The hat-tip goes to Mark Gimein, who dug this story up: it’s 47 years old, and it proves two things: (a) there’s nothing new about jingle mail; and (b) it’s entirely a function of jurisprudence and economics, rather than the Moral Character of the Nation.

Mark’s trod this ground before, but it bears revisiting: there are often very good reasons to walk away from your house. It’s never a first-best option: with interest rates low and banks under a lot of pressure to modify loans, it’s often possible to negotiate a deal whereby you get to stay in your house at a reasonable cost. But if your bank won’t be nice to you, then there’s no particular reason that you should be nice to them.

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