Should a homeowner use their home like a credit card by constantly refinancing?

In a New York Times Op-Ed article by Bethany McLean she poses the question “should the homeowner use their home like a credit card by constantly refinancing?”    Ms. McLean reports that “(r)efinancing is a relatively modern phenomenon. According to Joshua Rosner, a managing director at the research consultancy Graham Fisher & Company, by 1977, only 8 percent of homeowners had ever refinanced. By 1999, 47 percent had refinanced at least once. By the peak of the bubble, homeowners were extensively using refinancings to extract cash. Mr. Rosner also points out that while homeownership peaked in 2004, home prices peaked in 2006, because refinancing drove up prices.”

By 1999, a staggering 82 percent of subprime mortgages were refinancings, and in nearly 60 percent of those cases, the borrower pulled out cash, adding to his debt burden.

Her article points out that “(a)ccording to a joint HUD-Treasury report published in 2000, by 1999, a staggering 82 percent of subprime mortgages were refinancings, and in nearly 60 percent of those cases, the borrower pulled out cash, adding to his debt burden.”  Most of these funds were used to pay off higher-interest consumer debt, purchasing a car, paying for educational or medical expenses and a host of other personal reasons, including going on vacation.

Where did we lose the focus that our house should be the foundation of our financial security.  It provides us a place to raise our children, celebrate with friends and family and sustain a reasonable lifestyle without the concern of losing this security.  Somehow in the late 1990’s many people started using their homes like credit cards.  Perhaps it is time to rethink what financial security means to each of us.

Side bar note from Diane – Last week (11/2014) I read a report that foreclosures in Arizona just increased by 20%.  I don’t have any statistics, but more than 25 years of experience tells me that 90% of those foreclosures were refinancing debts.  Today (8/2016) foreclosures have been stable, but it appears the loans that come due in 2017 will cause a jump.  In addition, Fannie Mae sold a huge group of “non-performing” loans to financial investors which will certainly result in a new wave of foreclosures.

We have several videos on this site.  This is one “Should I keep my house or go into foreclosure?”