Almost half of consumers with a mortgage say they would consider walking away from the property if the loan was under water, according to a new survey conducted by RealtyTrac and Trulia.com.
Back in May roughly 41% of respondents said they'd walk away from the house if it was under water. The new reading is 48%.
Delinquencies have been stubbornly high for two years and there's an increasing fear in the mortgage and housing industries that if property values don't start firming up soon, more consumers may weight the benefits of a "strategic" default.
Fannie Mae recently tightened its underwriting guidelines for its automated underwriting system, banning for seven years any borrower who is foreclosed on for "non-extenuating" circumstances.
Consumers who lose their homes because of financial problems tied to a job loss, divorce or medical reasons, would be exempt from this standard. A Fannie Mae spokeswoman told ASR's sister publication National Mortgage News that the GSE is "trying to prevent strategic defaults" on its loans.
The RealtyTrac/Trulia survey also found that men are more likely than women to consider a strategic default by a ratio of 57% to 40%.
A strategic default occurs when a consumer who can afford to keep paying his loan purposely goes into default because the property's value has fallen by a sizeable amount.