Subprime blame game

Some 2.4 million homeowners are in danger of losing their homes, many because of bad subprime loans. Critics are pointing their fingers at who is responsible - here are the main targets.

Appraisers
Appraisers
The charge: Inflated appraisals put home buyers in immediate jeopardy.

The appraiser's job is pretty straightforward: Put an objective dollar value on a home. But according to Thomas Inserra, CEO of Zaio, an Internet-based appraisal service, inaccurate appraisals have become one of the substantial contributing factors to subprime's problems.

When a property is valued much higher than its actual worth, a borrower could owe more of the home than it would fetch on the open market. Inaccurately high appraisals also fed the rising home prices, which, by making homes less affordable, ensured that more borrowers would default on loans.

In a stagnant housing market or if prices are actually declining, owing more on a home than its value removes one of the safety nets. It makes it impossible for owners in trouble to tap home equity; there isn't any.

Bottom line: Appraisers don't bear the primary responsibility for all the bad loans, but more accurate appraisals could have lessened the severity of the problem.

Mortgage brokers

Appraisers

Regulators

Lenders

Wall Street

Agents

Borrowers
Now more than ever it pays to be a prime borrower - here's how to be that guy. (more)
Housing activists say families that have mortgages with questionable terms should be given six months to work out deals. (more)