The Miami Herald reports that many of the unemployed are finding it impossible to sell their houses in order to take jobs elsewhere. Professionals who bought their homes during the housing boom, or took equity out of their homes for other purchases, now find that their mortgages exceed the value of their depreciating homes, keeping them “anchored” where they are, unable to seek available jobs in other areas.
While the Herald article addresses problems unique to the extremes of the South Florida real estate market, the anchor analogy can be applied to most areas of the country. Those who bought near the peak of the nationwide housing boom, say 2005, when money was easy to get and leverage was highly encouraged, now find their homes worth 50% less than 5 years ago. They are left with the prospect of renting out their homes, short selling, foreclosure, or remaining where they are.
It can be tough choosing between the security of an income in another city, and the edgy security of a home that could go into default due to unemployment or underemployment. Families are weighing the importance of financial security, shelter, and the economic future, making tough decisions on whether to stay, or move on. For the last two years, the media has reported extensively on strategic default – which has generally come to mean walking away from a home and mortgage you can still afford to achieve other economic goals.
The Finance and Economics blog Calculated Risk says: “… less worker mobility is kind of like arteriosclerosis of the economy. It lowers the overall growth potential.” The mobility issue will be around for a while and will definitely have an impact on the job market as well as the housing market. But most significantly, in between the markets and figures – there, right there, so often resides a family chained to a submerged anchor of an investment.
Next time – Strategies you may not have thought of.