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When is a victim not sympathetic?

Possibly when he or she lives for more than a year in a half-million dollar home while paying next to nothing.

In “Rescue is quirk of timing” in Wednesday’s edition of The (Baltimore) Sun, the lead anecdote is Veronica Peterson, a 45-year-old single mother of three who says she can’t keep up with the mortgage payments on a $545,000 house in Columbia. She says she expects an eviction notice any day. The story presents her as a victim of the foreclosure crisis.

However, that’s apparently not the full story. I’ll let the City Paper explain:

…in the comments section below the article, hundreds of readers pointed out what the Sun’s reporters and editors could not, apparently: that Peterson had no business in that house, and that she’s lived there for more than a year rent- and mortgage-free. “Where do you think we can get in on this deal?” one commenter, calling himself Henry Bowman, asked another.

The City Paper goes on to dissect the loan numbers:

The online court and land records show that Peterson closed on the house on Nov. 3, 2006, with two loans from Washington Mutual. The main mortgage, for $436,000, had a starting interest rate of 8.5 percent, adjusting in December of this year to the London Interbank Offered Rate plus 4.99 percent. The second loan, often called a “piggyback,” totaled $109,000 with an interest rate of 11.5 percent, according to The Sun.

Those two payments together would have totaled $3,386.17 per month. That’s before property taxes, upkeep, utilities, etc. Peterson would have to earn at least $50,000 per year just to make her house payments.

But it appears that Peterson made few–if any–payments. The foreclosure was filed July 31, 2007. The balance on the main note then was $435,735.86, plus unpaid interest accrued from Jan. 1, 2007, plus $1,005.72 in late charges. This suggests that Peterson made, at most, one payment on her house: the December, 2006 payment. Given the grace periods typical in home-mortgage business, it is at least as likely that her first payment was not due until January 2007, which would mean she has made zero payments.

Had she made all of her payments, Peterson would have spent about $64,335 so far. Had she rented a similar place, she would have been charged around $2,500 per month–a total of $47,500–since January 2007. Instead, she apparently paid nothing.

Not much of a “victim,” I’d say. I’m also shocked that someone would take out a mortgage for the full price of a home. Am I missing the down payment in this transaction?

JOE BACCHUS, Web Specialist

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  1. A victim is not sympathetic when said person is not a victim.

    It doesn’t shock my conscience that this woman took out a mortgage in the full amount of the home. What I find shocking is that she took out a mortgage for $545,000 that she MUST have known she could not afford. According to the story, it’s likely she never even made a single payment. And she’s a supposed “victim?” I don’t think so.

    This is the type of person who should have their home foreclosed upon because of reckless fiscal irresponsibility. This is the type of person that any sort of government assistance should not help.