A Forbes.com article published today looks at the circumstances under which struggling mortgage borrowers are deciding to voluntarily stop making their monthly payments in order to secure loan modifications banks are otherwise not willing to perform. Experts in the article say it´s a "last-resort" sort of move and that only the desperate should try it, but that those who do have gotten good results. A bank analyst, meanwhile explains that banks don´t want to grant loan mods to people unless they are "mortally wounded;" otherwise the whole thing would just get "too expensive." So borrowers are essentially choosing to ruin their credit and lock in a loan mod rather than waiting to default out of necessity. Is this a twisted form of market efficiency at work?
Think about it: Struggling borrowers who ruin their credit in exchange for a loan mod are taking themselves out of a pool of future potential loan customers. They won´t be able to easily take out other kinds of consumer loans in the future-at least until they´ve repaired their scores-and banks will have a solid argument for curtailing their access to credit. What will this mean for the overall economy and for banks´ business? Probably nothing good. Bankers are already complaining of mixed messages from regulators about whether they should lend more or lend more prudently. With a growing number of mortgage holders whose credit behavior looks terrible on paper those two forces will be in even stronger opposition.
Wouldn´t doing more loan mods earlier be a positive move for banks, then? The market may have the answer eventually. But by then it could be too late.