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Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown Hardcover – May 22, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Based on seven years of reporting from over a dozen countries, writer Tom Wainwright takes you on an extraordinary journey into the business of being a drug lord. Learn more.
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As I write in February 2009, I am four months past due on my mortgage and bracing for foreclosure proceedings to begin. Thus begins this cautionary and critical examination of the housing crisis, a story that turned personal when New York Times economics reporter Andrews got caught up in the housing bubble after falling in love with a woman and a house. Bringing in $120,000 a year in salary—most of which went to child support and alimony to his ex-wife, Andrews says he was able to get a don't ask, don't tell mortgage with the assumption that his new wife, Patty, would be able to get a job to keep them afloat, an expectation that didn't work out as planned. Because of his economics journalism background, Andrews says he should have avoided the mortgage catastrophe, and he castigates himself as well as fellow borrowers, the financial industry that took advantage of them and a government that didn't put the brakes on the crisis that many economists warned about but that Alan Greenspan, the Bush administration and others ignored. This deeply personal exposé is timely and sobering in its candor. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Andrews's autopsy on his mortgage and the conditions that helped produce it is sharp and at times mordantly funny. -- Tom Vanderbilt

[T]he value of thisvividly written history is in the way it helps toexplain how our country reached the pointwhere about one out of 10 home mortgagesis either overdue or in foreclosure. Somepeople blame lax regulation. Others point toloose monetary policy at the Federal Reserveand greed on Wall Street.Mr. Andrews's book makes it clear that thereal culprit is human nature.--James R. Hagerty

Starred Review. This deeply personal expos is timely and sobering in its candor.

Provides important information on the recent mortgage debacle and the hazards of consumer debt. A must-read... --Mary Whaley"

Andrews uses his travails as a prism for viewing the forces behind the bubble. . . . Step by step, he investigates the institutions that gave him the rope with which to hang himself. --James Pressley"

Starred Review. This deeply personal expose is timely and sobering in its candor. "

A fascinating meditation on the experience of the crisis from the point of view of those facing foreclosure. --David Warsh"

Read Busted for the insight. . . .The president and every member of Congress should read this book. --Michelle Singletary"

The fact that lenders were happy to provide the money lies at the heart of Andrews' compelling book: Borrowers and lenders alike were drunk on credit and blind to the risks. --Jim Weiker"

[T]he value of this vividly written history is in the way it helps to explain how our country reached the point where about one out of 10 home mortgages is either overdue or in foreclosure. Some people blame lax regulation. Others point to loose monetary policy at the Federal Reserve and greed on Wall Street. Mr. Andrews's book makes it clear that the real culprit is human nature. --James R. Hagerty"

Andrews s autopsy on his mortgage and the conditions that helped produce it is sharp and at times mordantly funny. --Tom Vanderbilt"
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (May 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393067947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393067941
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This tale, well-known from its much-hyped "New York Times Magazine" excerpting, is based on the idea that it "if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone."

Well, not so much.

Andrews, the author, is a "New York Times" financial reporter who gets in deep with the mortgage credit crisis that, in a wider view, destablized the U.S. economy. Definitely a story many can relate to and quite timely. (Timely enough to save Mr. Andrews house, due to book revenues, one gathers from recent interviews.)

But what Mr. Andrews misses in his "it can happen to anyone" premise is that most of the people in deep are, we hope, not like him.

Andrews, by his own admission, is highly paid ($120k/year) but is deeply upset that, after 20-plus years of marriage and three kids, he is required to pay his ex-wife alimony and child support that total a large chunk of his take home pay--something he repeatedly deems unfair. (Seriously, a HUGE part of this book is how unfair life is to Mr. Andrews, who apparently defines "unfair" as anything that includes him living up to his financial obligations.)

Mr. Andrews also deftly skims over the fact that he is, in truth, a deadbeat dad. (Though he repeatedly claims that many of his excesses--the fancy house, vacations, clothes, dinners out, etc.--are "for the children.") He admits his wages are actually GARNISHED for these cursed child support/alimony payments, something that doesn't happen without a court-order, which can't come without a serious history of abuse by the payee. Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
The most basic rule to know when purchasing real estate is that you can afford a house that costs about three times your gross salary. I would certainly expect someone with "lots of financial savvy" to be aware of this old chestnut, one which so many people have disregarded over the last decade, ultimately resulting in our current disaster. He admitted in his NYT article that his effective gross pay after alimony was about $40,000 a year. He then takes out a mortgage on a $460,000 house? *Eleven* times income! That was all sorts of stupid, the root of it really, and he says nothing about it other than that a mortgage broker was willing to abet the act. The spendthrift wife is really just frosting on the stupid house purchase cake, resulting in a book full of "OMG! I can't pay my bills!" Wise up, NYT - your readers deserve better than a clueless moron who can write well.
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Format: Hardcover
It would be tempting to believe that so many people who have gotten caught in the mortgage crisis were duped into their bad decisions - lead down the primrose path by greedy bankers and people with no scruples who were just looking to enrich themselves. That's the principle of this book, anyway. Unfortunately - as it usually is - the truth is inconvenient, and the truth is that no one was holding a gun to Andrews' head when he took out a massive "liar's loan" to buy a house he couldn't afford for himself and wife number 2 in 2004.

First, let me just say that Andrews might be a really fine person and tons of fun at parties, but throughout the entire book it's pretty apparent that he wasn't thinking with his "big head" when he was making tons of bad financial decisions. He ditches his wife of 21 years - apparently not realizing that there's a reason why people say after 20 years of marriage, "it's cheaper to keep her." He initiated the divorce, he has three kids, and his first wife apparently didn't work - that's basically a recipe for getting socked with huge alimony and child support payments, yet he seems incredulous and petulant that he would have to support his former family even after he's moved on to his magical new beginning. He ends up with a "captivating" woman he knew in high school - a homemaker with 4 kids and apparently not much in the way of common sense, financial savvy, or ambition. Now, I don't know if this is true everywhere, but "homemaker" where I come from means "woman with no job." Patty, his new wife, hasn't worked in over 20 years, yet throughout the book, Andrews talks about expecting her to get a job making at least $40,000 a year to supplement the family's income.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked up Andrews' book on the assumption that a NY Times financial reporter would elucidate the details of the mortgage crisis in terms I would understand. Instead, I was duped into reading a shameless display of chutzpah and magical thinking by a person the NY Times should quickly fire. I am not a financial writer but rather someone with a finely cultivated math phobia. However, even I can understand that a mortgage loan must be predicated upon a present (not future) ability of the debtor to repay it. Why Mr. Andrews ever, for even an instant, thought he could afford a mortgage on a $460,000 house with a net income of $2770 is beyond me. Even if he took home his entire $120,000 salary, he should not have a mortgage obligation of more than $300,000 at most. His additional financial obligations, an un- or under-employed spouse, high alimony and child support payments, and a strong disinclination to predict obvious consequences, would have made any reasonable person conclude that his only appropriate domicile should be a rented one.

I do not intend to absolve the mortgage industry or banks for their vile misdeeds over the past few years but it doesn't take a college education to easily avoid falling into the pit. The fact that his mortgage broker, Bob, was eager to loan Mr. Andrews ridiculous amounts of money with no evidence of even a hint of ability to repay is no excuse for Mr. Andrews to have taken on this debt -- nor, most especially, for Mr. Andrews to suck money from people arguably even dumber than he (the people who bought/buy his book) as a last-ditch attempt to avoid debtor's prison (if only there were such a thing today).

My final criticism has nothing to do with the subject of Mr.
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