LAS VEGAS -- Nevadans are equally divided over whether homeowners who owe more on their homes than they are worth should purposely refuse to pay their mortgages, according to a report released Thursday by the Nevada Association of Realtors.
The report, Nevada's Face of Foreclosure, stated that in an April survey of 500 individuals undergoing, recently experiencing or narrowly avoiding foreclosure 45 percent approved of strategic defaults. An equal percentage said homeowners have a legal and ethical obligation to pay their mortgages if they are able.
The survey, with a 4.9 percent margin of error, also found that 27 percent of respondents experiencing foreclosure engaged in strategic default, and 53 percent had lost their job within the past 12 months.
The report included results from a second survey of adults contacted randomly from March 29 through April 2 and also came with a video presentation.
Among the other highlights:
* While loss of job remained the primary cause of foreclosures, 41 percent of respondents had unexpected medical bills, 20 percent saw an addition to their household, 14 percent had a tax increase and 6 percent experienced the death of the primary wage earner.
* On the effectiveness of government foreclosure prevention programs, 58 percent of individuals facing foreclosure and 52 percent of Nevada residents overall said they're not really having an impact. But roughly similar percentages in both categories believe government assistance should be made available to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.
* Among foreclosed individuals, 63 percent had owned their home for at least five years.
* Two-thirds of Nevada residents would support legislation making it easier for people who have experienced foreclosure to qualify for a new mortgage.
* Among Nevada residents, 56 percent expect home values to remain static over the next year and 54 percent also believe the state's foreclosure rate will be the same over the next 12 months.
* On the question of which is a safer investment, 53 percent of all respondents said owning a home versus 31 percent who favored investing in the stock market. As for owning versus renting, 55 percent considered owning a home to be a better value while 39 percent favored renting.
"This hopeful view of homeownership underscores a vision for the future of Nevada that appears to be emerging," the report concluded. " In personal interviews, focus groups and quantitative research alike, there is a clear understanding that things can get better.
"More people are talking about the market needing to work itself out. Many recognize that the government alone cannot ‘fix' this problem but are envisioning more clearly a healthy role for government. And many are more cautiously optimistic about the market and their own prospects for buying a home -- even those who have personally experienced foreclosure."