Recourse to the Mortgage Meltdown

Mortimer B. Zuckerman's recent editorial regarding the housing crisis was focused and insightful ["Obama's Problem No. 1," November 17-24].

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Mortimer B. Zuckerman's recent editorial regarding the housing crisis was focused and insightful ["Obama's Problem No. 1," November 17-24]. However, the statement that "mortgages are 'nonrecourse' " and buyers can just drop "the keys in the mailbox and walk away" is imprecise. Across the board, conventional residential mortgages are recourse debt, with the owner personally liable in the event of default even if there is no additional collateral. Commercial mortgages, and in particular the large loans, are mostly nonrecourse.

P.G. Waxman, Waxman Realty, Lakewood, NJ

Where is it written that a home's value must remain in excess of or equal to the principal of its mortgage?  Many commodities incur debt that exceeds their value, yet there is no raising of eyebrows regarding such debt on autos, or other items or services purchased on credit—items that are almost immediately worth less than the debt they incurred.  Forty years ago, when I purchased my first house, I heard that owning a home was a hedge against inflation, but not much was said then about the home's value in terms of appreciation as an investment. It seems that we have lost sight of a home's primary function, which is really as the place where we live. Keep it long enough, and its value will eventually exceed its debt, and meanwhile, you'll have a roof over your head. If compelling reasons to sell should arise and you must do so at a shortfall, then that's the time to negotiate with the lender.

Chuck Leigh, Truro, MA

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