Blunt Words on America's Mortgage Meltdown

But no sooner were the handshakes out of the way than one veteran real estate man laid out a scary scenario of rising foreclosures and falling prices in his county.

"Seven out of 10 sellers that I am talking to now either cannot make their payment or they don't have enough equity to sell their home," Tyrone Armstrong, a veteran realator. "We are looking at a lot of folks now who are going to be looking at foreclosure."

Ever the optimist, always the salesman, Cato still finds a silver lining.

"The numbers are overwhelming of the Americans who pay for their homes. We've got less than 1.5 percent of the folks who don't pay on time -- we are going to go into foreclosure on those -- most Americans will not go into foreclosure," he said.

Taking 'Our Share of the Blame'

But as Cato made his rounds, he ran into yet another casualty of the mortgage market. This time, it was a condo development where the first phase sold out. But now the developer is stuck with nearly 30 empty units because his customers are having trouble getting mortgages.

"The prime lending market has pretty much fallen out, and it has hurt us tremendously when it comes to being able to qualify buyers," said Vernon Allamby, a developer at DCRenvoations. "It means I have to become very creative or very scared."

Being creative means he is offering the option of "rent to buy," so those without the necessary cash or credit rating can move in.

After a long day assessing such a scary market, the question of blame came up.

"I think we can all take our share of the blame," admitted Cato. "As a home buyer or consumer, maybe I wanted that big house with all the bells and whistles -- wood floors, granite countertops … give me any mortgage that works … The party's over. Mother market is here with her strap, and it's not going to be pretty."

So the market may not be pretty, but neither is it dead. And that's what keeps this former Navy pilot moving ahead. Somewhere, somehow, someone's going to need a mortgage. And Tony Cato wants that call.

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