September 30th, 2009
Buying and Bailing
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There is a new trend developing due to the sagging housing economy where a homeowner who is underwater with their home, acquires a new bargain priced home and then walks away from the overvalued property. This practice, known as “Buying and Bailing,” has been a hot topic for homeowners looking for an escape route from paying a mortgage on a home that has lost significant value.
It sounds too good to be true; mortgage rates are still very low and you’ll be able to get a great deal on a home which is more affordable than your current home. More real estate and mortgage brokers are becoming familiar with the ins and outs of these transactions and are more than willing to coach you through this type of endeavor. However, accomplishing this in reality is difficult, you will need to be able to afford a new down payment as well as support both loans in order to qualify for the loan on the second home. Some consumers have set up a short sale, put the home in a spouse’s name or told the bank that they plan on renting out the first home as work around to help qualify for the second loan.
This type of exit strategy will only work in markets where the home values have dropped considerably. At first glance this may appear as a miracle from above, but consumers need to understand the repercussions of a buy and bail. Specifically, their credit score will be battered once they start missing mortgage payments which will ultimately end in foreclosure. Once they have a foreclosure on their credit report they won’t be able to get a Fannie Mae loan for up to four years. Additionally, anything requiring a credit check like insurance, new credit cards, employment screening will present your past misdeeds and likely affect pricing of other financial products or even cost you a job.
No one really knows how much this will affect consumers’ credit as this is the first time homeowners have made this type of risky and possibly illegal maneuver. One thing is for sure, consumers attempting a buy and bail will always have a looming uncertainty around if a lender or worse the police may come after them. At minimum, lenders can put a lien on the new property; as well as sue for fraud if you misrepresented yourself on your loan application. Many are rolling the dice that most lenders are severely understaffed and hoping their situation may get lost in the shuffle and never be addressed.
Predictably, lenders are calling this practice unethical, deceptive and fraudulent. They are quickly looking at ways to close this loophole to reduce future risks in their portfolios. For many it’s comical to hear the lenders call something “deceptive” when only a few years ago, they were creating variable rate mortgages with complex minimum payments and negative amortization, as well as 100% financing programs that contributed to the housing collapse. Regardless, lenders are now adopting stricter underwriting conditions when evaluating new purchase loans for borrowers with existing home mortgages including producing an executed lease agreement or requiring documented income to verify the consumer will be able to support both mortgages. Both of these are precautions to help weed out Buy and Bailer’s before they take ownership of that second property.
Buying and Bailing may be a way out for those who have the means to pull off such a complicated transaction and simply get lucky that lenders are understaffed and unable to properly follow up, but it requires a perfect storm of having the funds on hand, adequate employment/income to satisfy the underwriting, and a family member or spouse that can assist in securing the second home by being the primary applicant. Realistically, while this option does provide a viable, albeit difficult escape route for some, it’s very questionable of its legal and the long term ramifications are unknown at best.