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20 Million Underwater Mortgages by 2012?

More than 14 million borrowers were underwater as of Q1 2010, and with a further 10.8% decline in house prices expected relative to Q4 2009 levels, another 6 million borrowers are likely fall into negative equity by the end of 2011, according to commentary today by Deutsche Bank.

The presence of negative equity goes hand-in-hand with an increased likelihood of strategic default, as borrowers may sometimes not be willing to pay the mortgage when the house has lost substantial amounts of value.  The firm noted that, even when strategic default makes economic sense, many borrowers resist on moral and social grounds, as well as from fear of legal consequences. The existence of recourse — when a lender is able to pursue a borrower’s other assets — also acts as a disincentive against strategic default.

Deutsche Bank noted 11 states are considered non-recourse — though not all explicitly forbid deficiency judgments on homes or on purchase loans.

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