Sunday, October 21, 2007

Flippity Doo Dah

Obviously not all people affected by the bad real estate market are blameless.

The local results: In the six months ending July 1 of this year alone, more than $1 billion in mortgages defaulted in Palm Beach County and along the Treasure Coast. Not every borrower, though, was seeking shelter. And not everyone was duped into an onerous deal.

"I had a guy who called me who owns 70 homes," says Stuart broker Michael Morgan. "I know a lady who owns 16. It's the room of 1,000 doughnuts. How many can you eat? Two? Three? Well, how many houses can you live in?"

At the top of the market, though, home sales were all about cash flow. In 2005, a Point Manalapan home sold for $1.52 million in April, $1.82''million in June and was back on the block in August for $2.25 million.

Dozens of local borrowers now in default loaded up on risk by taking out two mortgages simultaneously: one for 80 percent of the home price and another for the remaining 20 percent. Fifty-eight of those piggy-back loans imploded within four months.

"People do need to take personal responsibility," says Ellen Schloemer, executive vice president of the Washington-based Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group. "But I think people relied on their mortgage professionals to get them through it, when they probably should have thought of them as a used-car salesman."

In fact, brokers are targets for some of the fiercest criticism - even from other brokers.