As part of his “To Do List,” President Barack Obama visited Val and Paul Keller on Friday. The White House described them as “responsible” homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their Nevada home is currently worth.
They owe $168,000 on their mortgage, but their Reno home is currently valued at $100,000.
The president is doing so to, “help demonstrate a concrete and tangible example as to why this broader push [to refinance] is so important not only for millions of Americans but for our economy,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in a conference call with reporters before the event.
During that call, Donovan used the words “responsible homeowners” more than a dozen times, in describing whom the administration’s proposed refinance programs should help.
It is not the Kellers' fault that home prices in Reno are down 52 percent from the peak, right? The Kellers bought their house 14 years ago, and they have not been late on a mortgage payment, according to Donovan. They were able to take advantage of the newly expanded government refinance program through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for severely underwater borrowers, and they are in fact putting some of their savings on the monthly mortgage toward paying down principal.
But were they responsible?
The Kellers bought their home before the height of the housing boom. The trouble I’m having understanding this whole scenario is that the median home price in Reno is actually 7 percent higher today than it was 14 years ago. If the Kellers had a “responsible” loan, that would be a 30-year fixed, in which case they should have paid at least some principal on the loan over the last 14 years. And didn’t these “responsible” borrowers, the Kellers, put some money down on the home?