The $103,000 shack: a perfect explanation of why housing is a mess
If you are wondering why the U.S. housing market is a mess, watch this video about a $103,000 mortgage that was used to finance a shack –literally, a shack. Of course, the mortgage was packaged with a bunch of others into a mortgage backed security, which was rated AAA.
This scenario sums up the mess that was the U.S. housing market pretty nicely. Wait until you hear what this piece of property recently sold for.
UPDATE 5/6/2009: I just noticed a post “Meet Lady Subprime” by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post from January which referenced this situation. He said:
The French have the comely Marianne, the British have the fetching Britannia, and we have the welcoming Lady Liberty. May I now suggest, at least for the duration of the current recession, a new feminine emblem of our times: Marvene Halterman of Avondale, Ariz. At age 61, after 13 years of uninterrupted unemployment and at least as many years of living on welfare, she got a mortgage.
She got that mortgage less than two years ago. She got it even though at one time she had 23 people living in the house (576 square feet, one bath) and some ramshackle outbuildings. She got it for $103,000, an amount that far exceeded the value of the house. The place has since been condemned.
This tale, unfortunately as American as apple pie, was recounted recently in the Wall Street Journal. Since the story ran over a long, holiday weekend, it is possible that you, not to mention the occasional member of Congress or, God forbid, the various government regulatory agencies, missed it. It is the only possible explanation for why there have been no executions, never mind arrests.
Halterman’s house was never exactly a showcase — the city has since cited her for all the junk (clothes, tires, etc.) on her lawn. Nonetheless, a local financial institution with the cover-your-wallet name of Integrity Funding LLC gave her a mortgage, valuing the house at about twice what a nearby and comparable property sold for.
According to the Journal, Integrity Funding then sold the loan to Wells Fargo & Co., which sold it to HSBC Holdings PLC, which then packaged it with thousands of other risky mortgages and offered this indigestible porridge to investors. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service took a look at it all, as they are supposed to do, and pronounced it “triple-A.” “Double-A” must mean no running water.
At each step of this mortgage process, a moral crime was committed. Halterman’s interest rate would have ballooned to 15.25 percent, when in all likelihood 1 percent would have been a reach for her. (Her welfare and disability payments totaled about $3,000 a month.) After paying off all her debts and the usual fees, Halterman got $11,090 at the closing. After processing her mortgage, Integrity cleared nearly as much: $9,243.
Would You Pay $103,000 for This Arizona Fixer-Upper? – WSJ