The profile of a typical strategic defaulter is not what you'd expect, said Peter Ticktin, a Florida-based attorney, whose firm is handling 3,000 foreclosure cases.
"Because they borrowed money and stopped paying their loans, you would think they're deadbeats -- but it's not like that," Ticktin said.
In fact, most are good credit risks with high FICO scores, according to Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer at Fair Isaac (FICO), the company behind FICO.
Take Jeff Horton, an IT manager in Orlando, Fla.
He stopped making mortgage payments on two homes in October 2009, a condo purchased for $140,000 in 2005, and a house he bought two years later for $265,000. He had occupied the condo until he bought the house, and then rented it out.
"I would have kept up the payments, but the condo was appraised for $54,000 and the house, $135,000," said Horton.
To keep paying off the homes didn't add up. He could rent a nice three-bedroom home in town for about $1,000 a month, less than half what he was paying for his mortgages, even after rental income.
For him and other homeowners, that makes up for the credit-score hit and the fact that you won't be able to get a mortgage for several years.
Before he stopped paying, his credit score was an excellent 750. It dipped as low as 520, but is up to 600 again.
"Strategic default can be a financially sophisticated thing to do," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, the financial analytics company. "And it makes sense that more financially savvy people do it. They may treat their mortgages like they would their investment portfolios -- in a financially ruthless manner."