Renovations: Underwater Mortgages

When you purchased your house, you had a vision. Maybe it was a place to start a family or to enjoy retirement. Now, many homeowners are faced with underwater mortgages; stuck in situations where the amount they owe is greater than their home’s current value. If you are in this situation, you may be wrestling with whether or not you should walk away. There is good reason to stay put.

While the current situation may seem overwhelming, those monthly payments still provide you with a place to live. If you walk away from your home, you may have monthly rent payments similar to your current monthly mortgage payments, without the benefits of income tax deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes. According to the law firm of Horan and Wagner in West Babylon, “Home owners fail to realize that if they have a fixed rate mortgage, they will make the same payment of principle and interest for the next 25-30 years.” (Rents are highly unlikely to remain the same over the next 30 years.) “If a borrower fails to make a mortgage payment the lender will wait 60 days before starting a foreclosure and then the foreclosure action can take anywhere from 8 months to 2 years or more. Compare this with an eviction proceeding for non-payment of rent, which is less than a month, and homeownership looks better and better.”

If affordability is the issue and you can no longer make the payments, you do have options. Check with your bank about the alternatives. You may be eligible for a loan modification, which would change the terms of the loan to reduce the payment amount.

If you decide to sell the house, consider selling initially through a broker. A short sale is another alternative scenario, in which your lender agrees to allow you to sell the house for less than the mortgage amount.

The current economic situation is frustrating for many, but as history has proven, real estate will again increase in value. An underwater mortgage may seem overwhelming, but don’t react without considering all of the implications.