From Diana Olick at

I have argued many times that just because a loan is underwater (value of loan is higher than value of home) it doesn’t necessarily mean that the borrower will stop making timely payments.

Yes, the incentive to abandon the home is there, but for most homeowners, their home is their community, their daily life, and not just an investment. Most probably think the value will come back over time, and unless they desperately need to move, they have no reason to stop paying.

Amherst analysts disagree with me. “Borrower equity status is the single most important predictor of success,” they claim. To explain their premise, they use two definitions of performing loans: A “successful” loan is one that is always performing, re-performing or voluntarily prepaid. A “clean success” takes out the re-performing loans. Here’s what they found:

For loans with equity, 88.9% were successful after 2 years, and 84.4% represented a clean success.

For loans with CLTV >120, only 53.6% of loans were successful and only 40.9% represented a clean success.

We talk a lot about the shadow inventory of foreclosed properties overhanging the market and weighing down inventories, but the inventory of potential new defaults is clearly high; that potential, even with steady economic recovery, exists and must be factored into the equation.

The latest home price reports are not good, and even though sales appear to be bottoming in some markets, prices always lag. Also, many of the sales are foreclosures (around 30 percent), so that knocks the price recovery premise on its head as well.

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