Homeowners with mortgages of more than $1 million are defaulting at almost twice the U.S. rate and some are turning to so-called short sales to unload properties as stock-market losses and pay cuts squeeze wealthy borrowers.
“The rich aren’t as rich as they used to be,” said Alex Rodriguez, a Miami real estate agent with JM Group USA Inc., whose listings include a $2.9 million property marketed as a short sale because the price is less than the mortgage, leaving the bank with a loss. “People have reached the point where they can’t afford the carrying expenses of a $2 million home.”
Payments on about 12 percent of mortgages exceeding $1 million were 90 days or more overdue in September, compared with 6.3 percent on loans less than $250,000 and 7.4 percent on all U.S. mortgages, according to data from First American CoreLogic Inc., a Santa Ana, California-based research firm. The rate for mortgages above $1 million was 4.7 percent a year earlier.
The Fed purchases haven’t affected the high end of the market because they exclude so-called jumbo loans. Mortgages above the $729,750 limit set by Congress for the nation’s highest-priced markets cost almost 1 percentage point more than conforming loans, according to Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH Associates, a mortgage-data company in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. That’s quadruple the historic spread.
“There is no refinance market for you if you are underwater and outside the Fannie and Freddie framework,” Gumbinger said. “High-end neighborhoods are all suffering from the same problems of diminished income at a time when there is little equity to work with.”
“The reason the low end stopped falling is because the government stepped in with affordable loans,” said Scott Simon, managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co., a Newport Beach-based investment firm that runs the world’s largest bond fund. “There is no political will to bail out a million-dollar house.”