If A Wealthy Developer Can Walk Away From The Mother Of All Underwater Mortgages, Why Can't You?

Submitted by Jen Jones on Mon, 02/01/2010 - 12:23pm

If A Wealthy Developer Can Walk Away From The Mother Of All Underwater Mortgages, Why Can't You?

If A Wealthy Developer Can Walk Away From The Mother Of All Underwater Mortgages, Why Can't You?

Rachel Beck, national business columnist for The Associated Press, asked this very question in a recent article upon finding that heavily capitalized developer Tishman Speyer Properties was able to simply “walk away” from 11,232 Manhattan apartments because it couldn’t pay its mortgage, under the guise of “good business,” while at the same time, in the same country, Rick Gilson, a college custodial supervisor in South Dakota, resists walking away from the mortgage on his mobile home, fearing he'll be considered “a deadbeat.”

As Beck found, “Those two borrowers face the same financial dilemma: Their mortgages far exceed the values of their properties. Yet one gets to walk away without guilt, while the other can't. Mr. Gilson is scared to dump the mortgage on his mobile home. He owes $31,973, but the home is only worth about $14,000.” "I have 12 years of money put into this property that I will never get out," said the 50-year-old Gilson. "But I am still paying because this is what I have been told to do. That's what I think is right."

As Beck illustrates, up to this point, the focus of the real estate crisis has been on individual Americans facing their own personal mortgage meltdowns. Today, one in four U.S. homeowners (nearly 11 million Americans) are underwater on their mortgages.  While some experts believe it makes sense to walk away if you’re deeply underwater as it’s not necessarily worth it to keep paying a mortgage when they can find comparable rental housing for less, the argument against walkaways is not only a dropping credit score, but that they will wreak economic havoc. Banks will have made more bad loans, will then make fewer loans and home prices will continue to plunge.

Obviously the rules are different, though, for what Beck calls “the walk away of all walk aways.”

That title goes to the 56-building Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village complex, the largest single-owned residential area in the city. Commercial real-estate firm Tishman and its partner, investment, paid $5.4 billion for the property, hoping to make money by converting rent-regulated apartments into high-priced luxury condos.

Enter the current housing crash and now the property’s value sits squarely at $1.8 billion: a difference not simply underwater, but drowning.  While Tishman has said that it was turning the property back over to creditors to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection, Tishman has failed to restructure $4.4 billion in debt, unable to find another buyer. So, Tishman exits the deal with a mark on its reputation, and yet a conciliatory $33 billion in assets.

Residential homeowners like Rick Gilson don’t have it so easy. With a mobile home that started depreciating the minute he moved in over a decade ago, he rents out the property just to make the payments, living in another home with his wife.

"I get so stressed over this," Gilson told Beck. "It's like the elephant in the room and there is nothing you can do about it."

While the unfair truth is that real-estate tycoons can default on a $4.4 billion mortgage, but dis-similarly-situated individuals can’t walk away from a $31,000 loan, average Americans do have choices.  As homeowners languish waiting for more immediate mortgage help, many are turning to bankruptcy to stop foreclosure and other creditor actions. For reliable bankruptcy advice that you can trust, contact The Law Firm of John T. Orcutt. And to find out more about your bankruptcy options, visit The Law Offices of John T. Orcutt’s “Things to See and Hear” information.

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