Maybe you don't need to spend time shopping for the lowest mortgage rates, contacting mortgage brokers, or saving up for a down payment after all. Almost overnight, newspapers shifted stories about house squatting from the "news of the weird" to the mainstream financial pages.
The idea's certainly attractive for an American public frustrated by a punishing housing market. With mortgage lenders struggling to catch up with a backlog of foreclosure cases, it almost feels like you might be able to get away with living in a house that you don't really own... until you consider some of the recent, high-profile squatting cases covered in the media.
Even celebrities and executives are squatters
- Actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi moved back into the guest house of a luxury home they once owned. Most celebrities would show off their new digs on MTV Cribs. Instead, the Quaids led "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and a team of investigators to Canada, driven away by felony burglary charges for taking up residence after foreclosure.
- Wells Fargo executive Cheronda Guyton processed foreclosures for one of the nation's biggest mortgage lenders, making it easy for her to squat in a luxury estate. Guards at the home's gated community called authorities after neighbors complained about loud parties.
- Officials in New Mexico have identified a 28-square mile tract of land once carved out as a subdivision, now home to over 400 squatting families. Despite a lack of utilities and public safety, the neighborhood has spawned roads and even new buildings.
- USA Today reports that as many as 300,000 Americans now subscribe to the "sovereign citizens" movement, in which members declare themselves kings and queens of their foreclosed homes, padlock the doors, and deny diplomatic relations to their mortgage lenders. Authorities arrested one Atlanta couple after their car, complete with diplomatic license plates, was pulled over on a major interstate highway with two flat tires.
King of the castle
Avoiding mortgage lenders altogether might seem like a dream, but the stories of modern American squatters only end in misery. Fortunately, refinance rates remain low. Experienced mortgage brokers can help you find the right deal based on your current equity, your savings, and your monthly income.
You can still become king of your castle, as long as you don't actually scare the neighbors by parading in your crown.