The etymology of the word mortgage is a fascinating one:
The great jurist Sir Edward Coke, who lived from 1552 to 1634, has explained why the term mortgage comes from the Old French words mort, “dead,” and gage, “pledge.” It seemed to him that it had to do with the doubtfulness of whether or not the mortgagor will pay the debt. If the mortgagor does not, then the land pledged to the mortgagee as security for the debt “is taken from him for ever, and so dead to him upon condition, &c. And if he doth pay the money, then the pledge is dead as to the [mortgagee].”
Our contemporary adjustable rate / subprime mortgage crisis is a little bit more complicated than a simple matter of a debt that may or may not be repaid and a house that may or may not be seized. That’s why I was delighted to find this stick figure cartoon explanation called “The Subprime Primer.” It’s hilarious, educational, and worth the five minutes it takes to read.
Lastly, what happens when someone who is foreclosed on decides that they aren’t giving up without a fight?
Joe Lents hasn’t made a payment on his $1.5 million mortgage since 2002.
That’s when Washington Mutual Inc. first tried to foreclose on his home in Boca Raton. The Seattle-based lender failed to prove that it owned Lents’ mortgage note and dropped attempts to take his house. Subsequent efforts to foreclose have stalled because no one has produced the paperwork.
“If you’re going to take my house away from me, you better own the note,” said Lents, 63, the former chief executive officer of a now-defunct voice recognition software company.
Judges in at least five states have stopped foreclosure proceedings because the banks that pool mortgages into securities and the companies that collect monthly payments haven’t been able to prove they own the mortgages.
These ripoff securities were in such a hurry to rip people off that they may not have done the appropriate paperwork to transfer ownership of the mortgages they are selling to investors! The amount of deceit and dumbassedness at every stage of our modern mortgage crisis is simply staggering.
The lesson that I am learning from the mortgage crisis is this: in a culture where regulation is frowned upon, crooks will thrive.