Ma and Pa Smith, sitting across the desk from Broker Bob, may have worried about whether they’d be able to pay the adjustable-rate mortgage when it reset in four years, but who doesn’t—even if they can afford it. All thirty-year commitments are to some extent a leap of faith, and you’re some kind of sucker if you believe the Smiths weren’t being cajoled and smooth-talked past their worries by the brokers.
This isn’t to mention the outright criminality on the part of the brokers (and yes, the crimes go all the way up the chain to the banks, Wall Street, and the credit-ratings firms—but that’s a somewhat separate story) that was rampant in the boom years. Fudging people’s incomes or conning them into refinancing or giving them ARMs they didn’t want. Want to know the extent of the shadiness? This Wall Street Journal investigation from late last year found that at the peak of the boom, 61 percent of those who got subprime mortgages likely qualified for much lower cost prime loans. Did those home buyers put themselves into higher-cost subprime notes or were they deceived into them? Guess.
But some don’t buy it and I guess they probably never will. Here’s “ed” commenting on my report of my own parents getting put into an ARM with a pre-payment penalty, despite me repeatedly telling them not to get one:
Come on now. They signed the house purchase documents and didn’t know they had an ARM rate? I find this very difficult to believe. Mind you, these were not novice home-buyers, and had been through the process once before. I have had enough of the unscrupulous mortgage brokers story. The truth is there were willing buyers who took advantage of the system. Sure, they say now they were bilked. But as anyone who goes through a settlement knows, everything is explained in excrutiating detail, and homebuyers sign papers showing they were told in detail what they were getting into, and what the consequences were.
Yes, that’s right. My folks were put into that type of loan unbeknownst to them, and even against their expressed wishes. Hard to believe, I know, but unfortunately it’s very true. I’m glad your broker seems to have been honest, though the broker who dealt with my did too until they went to sell their house, but it’s clear that many, many were not.
The point of “My Foreclosure” was simply to tell what it’s like to lose your home. It’s a real trauma and I feared the awfulness of it might get slightly lost in the blizzard of bad news and statistics. We thought business reporters, especially in the elite publications read by the national and global decision-makers, might be somewhat detached from this reality.
So to further get the point across, check out journalist Darleene’s poignant post about her own experience a decade ago, which she linked to in the “My Foreclosure” comments.