Credit card debt? Mortgage can wait

A sold sticker is placed on a real estate sign outside a house.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: The subprime mess is spawning some wacky tales, and here's one of them: A big credit counseling service says many clients who aren't paying their mortgages -- which could cost them their homes -- are still paying their credit card bills. More now from Steve Tripoli.


Steve Tripoli: Elizabeth Schomburg at Family Credit Counseling Service says her counselors see that decision all the time.

Elizabeth Schomburg: And this certainly goes beyond conventional wisdom, which has always said to pay your rent or mortgage first, and then take care of your debt.

But conventional wisdom is meeting unconventional mortgages here. Schomburg says many of these folks have little or no down-payment money in their homes, so there's little to lose as home prices fall.

Schomburg: If their house is depreciating in value, or if they simply can't afford it, it may be better just to walk away, or lose the house, if you can't refinance or find other options.

She says many also want to keep their credit lines open as economic uncertainty deepens.

Schomburg says there's no set advice for people who make this choice. But she says it wouldn't hurt for these folks to at least talk to their mortgage servicer or a housing counselor. They might be able to work out a cheaper loan that could change their minds about walking away from their home.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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