From the U-T:

A San Diego real estate agent has launched an awareness website that aims to stop strategic defaults, when underwater borrowers choose to walk away from their homes even though they are able to afford their mortgages.

Tuba Gokcek, who is based in Clairemont, recently launched stopstrategicdefaults.com for homeowners and others to express their thoughts on this type of defaulting, which has become more accepted in recent years as home equity fell across the country and anger against banks increased. A 2011 Fannie Mae study shows 27 percent of homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth are open to a strategic default. That’s up from 15 percent in 2010.

“Legislators should stop this from happening,” Gokcek said. “It’s not ethical to borrow money from someone and then say they’re not paying it. It’s a practice that hurts others.”

How does it hurt others?

Gokcek said strategic defaults lead to short sales and foreclosure deals, which bring down the value of neighboring homes. More than half of county home resales last month were either foreclosures or short sales, as cash buyers and investors continued to chase lower-priced properties.

Gokcek, whose website outlines a case against strategic defaults in several sections, also includes a petition that reads: “We, the ethical and responsible People of the United States of America, urge the Congress to pass and enforce effective laws without loopholes to stop strategic defaults immediately.”

It’s unclear exactly how many defaults in the country are strategic. But a June 2011 study by Northwestern University shows defaults that appear so are on the rise, increasing from 26.4 percent in March 2009 to 35.1 percent in September, 2010.

Other findings:

  • Black, Hispanic and older homeowners are more willing to be strategic defaulters. Women are less likely.
  • Eighty-two percent of people surveyed said a strategic default is morally wrong.
  • Homeowners who know someone who has strategically defaulted are more likely to say they will follow suit.
  • Borrowers who are angrier about the economic climate and trust banks less are more likely to default strategically.

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