Wonder how Americans can afford to buy millions of iGadgets, a second LCD TV for the shoe closet, and eat at restaurants more than almost any time in the past despite sliding personal income? Simple - increasingly fewer pay the biggest staple bill in a US household: their mortgage. The following story of Keith And Janet Ritter, who have lived in their Fort Washington, MD $1.29MM, 4,900 square foot McMansion for 5 years (which they purchase with no money down) without ever making a single mortgage payment, and who are not even close to being evicted, may explain much about the way US society currently operates, and why other perfectly responsible and hard-working taxpayers (who do have to pay for their mortgage) continue to fund tens of billions in Fannie and Freddie losses who are first on the hook to absorb the implicit losses by allowing families such as the Ritters to live in perpetuity without paying, and the banks to keep said mortgage on the books at par without any impairments.
The Washington Post has more on this absolute horror story of a case study of just how busted the USSA has become:
The eviction from their million-dollar home could come at any moment. Keith and Janet Ritter have been bracing for it — and battling against it — almost from the moment they moved into the five-bedroom, 4,900-square-foot manse along the Potomac River in Fort Washington.
In five years, they have never made a mortgage payment, a fact that amazes even the most seasoned veterans of the foreclosure crisis.
The Ritters have kept the sheriff at bay by repeatedly filing for bankruptcy and by exploiting changes in Maryland’s laws designed to help delinquent homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Those efforts to protect homeowners have transformed Maryland’s foreclosure process from one of the country’s shortest to one of the longest. It now takes on average 634 days to complete a foreclosure in Maryland, compared with 132 days in Virginia.
“The market won’t fix itself,” said Anne Norton, Maryland’s deputy commissioner for financial regulations. “By the time it does, how many homeowners will be churned up and spit out by the machine?”
Critics, including economists and lenders, blame the state’s go-slow approach for a growing backlog of foreclosures and a weak-to-nonexistent recovery in home prices. To them, the system puts too much emphasis on helping individual homeowners and not enough on quickly clearing the market of foreclosures so prices can rebound and hard-hit communities can recover. And they say it also creates opportunities for abuse by those determined to drag the process out for as long as possible.
“How is it people can stay in a house for five years without ever making a mortgage payment?” said Thomas A. Lawler, a former senior vice president at Fannie Mae who now runs his own consulting firm in Loudoun County. “That’s a screwed-up process. It’s an example of how the process is broken.”
The Ritters, who bought their house for $1.29 million with almost no money down, are hardly representative of the vast majority of Maryland’s distressed homeowners.
During the boom, they set out to become mini real estate moguls, buying properties and flipping them for a profit. In the process, Keith Ritter, 54, went from being on probation for bankruptcy fraud and making minimum wage to being a successful real estate investor and landlord with a six-figure income. Then, when the housing market tanked five years ago, the couple found themselves facing multiple foreclosures.
The Ritters have tried to negotiate different payment arrangements with their lender to save their posh home near National Harbor, they said, but to no avail.
“It was never our intention to get here and never make a mortgage payment,” Keith Ritter said. “We don’t believe in living for free.”
But he and Janet, a 51-year-old real estate agent, make no apology for using every tactic available to them to stay in their house, including challenging the foreclosure sale in court, requesting mediation and claiming they had a tenant living with them. Their adversaries, they argued, are giant financial institutions with armies of lawyers that are out to make as much money as possible at the expense of homeowners.
“When a bank does all it can to save itself, that’s good business,” Keith said. “When a homeowner does the same thing, he’s called a deadbeat.”
And that, ladies and gents, is why this country is fucked.
Meet the Ritters:
"Keith and Janet Ritter inside their home in Fort Washington, Md. In five years, they have never made a mortgage payment, a fact that amazes even the most seasoned veterans of the foreclosure crisis."
"Janet Ritter in the dining area of their Fort Washington home. The Ritters make no apology for using every tactic available to them to stay in their house, including challenging the foreclosure sale in court and requesting mediation."
"Keith Ritter has a business, Beat It Movers, that involves eviction services, property preservation and cleaning of foreclosed homes. Here, he checks out some ceiling damage in one such home in Fort Washington. Ritter gets the irony of working for some of the same banks that have foreclosed on him. But he has to make money somehow. “All I know is real estate,” he said."
Casa de Ritter:
"The Ritter's Fort Washington home. They have kept their home for so long by repeatedly filing for bankruptcy and by exploiting changes in Maryland’s laws designed to help delinquent homeowners avoid foreclosure."
"Interior of Keith and Janet Ritter's Fort Washington home. Efforts to protect homeowners have transformed Maryland’s foreclosure process from one of the country’s shortest to one of the longest. It now takes on average 634 days to complete a foreclosure in Maryland, compared with 132 days in Virginia"
And when all else fails, beg god for debt forgiveness: "Bible verses are marked that pertain to debt and forgiveness on a table in the Ritters’ home in Fort Washington."
Then again, who needs god when you have hope and change... for some.