25th February 2013
Mathew Elderfield makes reference in a recent article to ‘Mortgage Delinquents’. Is this too harsh or is there a sense of realism here and if so, why? If people in debt from the heady days of the Celtic Tiger have fallen into unemployment, they are most likely to form the category of 90 days in arrears and possibly face eviction from their homes. There are targets to be set which will no doubt revolve around potential to get employment and the ability to reactivate the loan (where it has been converted to interesting being capitalised) and go forward with a new deal restructured by the bank. The problem for the people seriously in arrears is that the period of 5 years has advanced them further and further into debt . It is suggested for every one mortgage in arrears, there are as many as 4 other loans attached. How will the Personal Insolvency Act cater for these people? Will they offer to pay say the credit car loan/the car loan or credit union loan based on the fact that the mortgage repayment could work without the other outstanding loans. This means the more powerful banks could negotiate a write down with say a car loan debt which we know is subject to very high interest and is most likely paid off within say 4 months of a 2 year loan? We need forensic accountants but then perhaps this is what the Personal Insolvency Act is about.
Drogheda, Balbriggan and so many more towns are bereft. The motorways we sought are now in place and people gladly pay the tolls but the outer suburbs and rural locations are now the potential rural abandonments of the future. Every second shop appears to be closed and if this is the case on the east coast of Ireland what must it be like in the midlands or for that matter the west of Ireland? Allsop are having a firesale on the 1st March 2013, and it will be interesting to see if the bottom level of the house price decline is yet reached. Recently, there was a 3 bed semi-detached house Granard advertised in the newspapers for £30,000 with a rent roll of £4,700. This throws up in the face of people living in Dublin where the same house is £250,000 or more, the injustice of the property tax based on value. Could there be a motive here for people to sell their Dublin property even in negative equity from say £400,000 and move to the rural areas and live with less debt and the banks rewarding them with some form of debt forgiveness deal?
Debt forgiveness is prickly to say the least. Take that Celtic Tiger span of 5 years where people are now caught in the negative equity trap. For those who are, there are many more who are not. There are people who bought their homes in other decades who have paid interest rates in excess of 10%, there are others who bought out their homes without any debt and for them there is an injustice in the potential of the banks to write-down the debt, it removes what the power of the marketplace is all about. There are people who have faced negative equity by being actively participative. They have recognised they cannot manage their debts, they have emigrated for work, no doubt let out their property, with the intention to return when the employment improves, or if ever. What they are doing is acknowledging that unemployment, negative equity created the motivation to move and pay off their debts based on the contract they made when they decided to enter the housing market.
Elderfield may be right about ‘Mortage Delinquents’. Mathew Elderfield worked for a UK bank in Bermuda or one of the tax haven Islands. These banks are in the market to make money and protect the deposits of those who save, to pay them interest that rewards them for saving, and lending out money that will be repaid. The capitalist would no doubt say: You enter into the property market at your peril. You should be aware that like all investments there is an upside and a downside. Sometimes you buy in and the property value rises speedily and at other times it declines to negative equity. However the term of a loan is 20 years to 25 years and the hint is therein. Property values are fluid. In 1983, a three-bed semi-detached in Castleknock was £34,000; within 2 years it had increased to £38,000 but then for nearly a decade it hovered around £34,000 (yes, there was negative equity in Ireland before). Now the same house would be valued at £250,000. Banks employ forensic accountants, they employ actuaries. We are 5 years into down values on properties, be watchful of the deals that banks will engage in.
Why? Imagine: Lender with sub-prime book of debt re mortgages who sells it to private equity company at discount e.g like Clery’s to Gordon Brothers or for that matter the Burlington hotel to Blackstone private equity companies. If this can happen, then the private equity firm that buys has done the maths. If they give a write-down, then they are assessing the future value of houses over a longer period of time.
Mr. Elderfield is warning the mortgage delinquents who have possibly sat back waiting for write-downs, you should have done more to honour your commitments and if he could not secure a job in Ireland surely then you could travel abroad and work….contracts are legal and binding so maybe concessions will only apply in genuine cases. But if the private equity companies are hovering over mortgage books and buying up houses at discounted rates then the equation of assessing house values over time, might be the more beneficial assessment to value properties. It is worth noting that most people paid deposits of 20-25% on the properties which are now in negative equity. If a private equity firm seeks to take possession of the home, they secure the deposit!
Michelle Clarke (Chestnut)