Strategic Default

Definition of ‘Strategic Default’

A deliberate default by a borrower. As the name implies, a strategic default is done as a financial strategy and not involuntarily. Strategic defaults are commonly employed by mortgageholders of residential and commercial property who have analyzed the costs and benefits of defaulting rather than continuing to make payments and found it more beneficial to default.

Investopedia explains ‘Strategic Default’

Strategic defaults are often employed by borrowers when the value of their property has dropped substantially within a fairly short time. If the value of the property dips below the mortgage balance then a strategic default provides a way to minimize the property owner’s loss. Owners who use this strategy have been assigned the nickname “walkaways”.


Unemployment, Negative Equity, and Strategic Default

Fed Reserve Bank of Atl

Kristopher Gerardi, Kyle F. Herkenhoff, Lee E. Ohanian, and Paul S. Willen

Working Paper 2013-4/August 2013

Abstract: Using new household-level data, we quantitatively assess the roles that job loss, negative equity, and wealth (including unsecured debt, liquid assets, and illiquid assets) play in default decisions. In sharp contrast to prior studies that proxy for individual unemployment status using regional unemployment rates, we find that individual unemployment is the strongest predictor of default. We find that individual unemployment increases the probability of default by 5–13 percentage points, ceteris paribus, compared with the sample average default rate of 3.9 percent. We also find that only 13.9 percent of defaulters have both negative equity and enough liquid or illiquid assets to make one month’s mortgage payment. This finding suggests that “ruthless” or “strategic” default during the 2007–09 recession was relatively rare and that policies designed to promote employment, such as payroll tax cuts, are most likely to stem defaults in the long run rather than policies that temporarily modify mortgages.