A new survey of homeowners found that two out of five, or 41 percent, of homeowners would consider walking away from their mortgages if their homes were worth less than the amount they owed.
The survey, by search site Trulia.com and RealtyTrac, the online marketplace for foreclosed properties, demonstrates the growing popularity of “strategic defaults, which were the subject of a 60 minutes segment last Sunday . The Trulia-RealtyTrac survey produced the highest number yet of potential strategic defaulters.
The percentage of foreclosures that were perceived to be strategic was 31 percent in March 2010, compared to 22 percent in March 2009 according to new data released two weeks ago from the team of researchers at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University that first identified the scope of “strategic default” behavior last year.
Some 288,992 foreclosures per quarter are strategic defaults, according to the U of C and Northwestern researchers.
Translated into actual homeowners with a mortgage, the Trulia-RealtyTrac survey would produce about 21 million homeowners who would walk away from their homes if they were under water. More than 11.3 million homeowners — nearly one-fourth of all Americans with a mortgage — owe more on their loan than their home is now worth, according to a February report by FirstAmerican CoreLogic.
More than 10 percent of people with mortgages owe 25 percent or more than their home is worth.
A key finding in the research on strategic defaults is the likelihood that homeowners will opt to walk away if they know others who have done so, or live in an area with a high percentage of foreclosures. Its findings, compared with actual rates of strategic default through the first quarter, suggest that the option is growing in popularity and acceptance, and will produce significantly more strategic defaults in the months to come unless property values suddenly improve.
The May 2010 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive via its QuickQuery(SM) online omnibus service on behalf of Trulia between May 10-12, 2010 among 2,596 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older. The sample included 1,690 homeowners, 1,137 of whom currently have a mortgage, and 832 renters.
Steve Cook is a nationally recognized speaker and author. He has worked with various companies and organizations as a consultant. He has an extensive background in public relations, journalism and politics. Check out his