DEFINITION of 'Jingle Mail'

A situation where a homeowner mails his or her house keys to a mortgage lender due to an inability to meet mortgage payment obligations and a lack of equity in the property. If a homeowner is upside-down in a mortgage and feels the entire loan is a lost cause, he or she may choose to walk away from the property altogether and relinquish it to the original lender instead of going though the foreclosure process.

BREAKING DOWN 'Jingle Mail'

If a homeowner has difficulty making mortgage payments and is limited in his or her ability to refinance the mortgage - especially if there is no equity in the home or the value of the home has fallen in the market to less than the value of the outstanding loan - there is often little an owner can do but foreclose. This usually occurs when a weak housing market occurs during economic weakness in which job losses increase and salaries stagnate or fall.

This term was first used to describe the surprise mailings that mortgage lenders received following the savings and loan debacle of 1990-1991. This term resurfaced during the housing and subprime mortgage collapse, which began in 2006.

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