Affordable Homes Underwater: What Can Be Done?

Written by Posted On Thursday, 22 May 2014 11:25

Nationwide, approximately 30 percent or one in three homes, with a a mortgage and priced within the bottom third of home values is underwater, (mortgage debt higher than current home value) based on a report from the first quarter of this year. This is compared to about 18 percent of homes in the middle third and nearly 11 percent of homes in the top third, according to

For those underwater, selling their home can be difficult without a short sale or foreclosure. When the home is underwater, often the sellers won't make enough profit to cover their expenses and position themselves to buy a new home using a deposit.

For eight consecutive quarters, negative equity has fallen but, in this first quarter, it fell at the lowest pace in almost two years due to home value growth slowing. The forecast is improving though. Negative equity is expected to drop to about 17 percent in the first quarter of 2015. In the first quarter or 2013, it was at 25.4 percent.

This not only makes it tough for homeowners who want to sell but also for first-time buyers because many of these homes are what would be considered "affordable, first-time-buyer homes".

So, what can you do if your home is underwater and you still want or need to sell it? There are options.

Start by analyzing your household finances. You must have a complete picture of your net worth. This means look at what's coming in and how much money is going out. Break your expenses down by listing each item and then go through your list to see which expenses can be cut.

If you have high credit card balances with high interest rates, talk to a credit counseling service. There are many non-profit organizations that work with the credit card companies to provide you a much lower interest rate that allows you to make monthly payments and pay off your debt in a few years. Sometimes the interest rate is reduced by 10 percent or more. This can be a huge savings. The plans are voluntary and can actually help your credit score because you're paying down debt.

Sell items of value that you can do without. If you're driving a newer car, perhaps, selling it and purchasing a less expensive and slightly older but reliable car can help during the financial tight-budget years. Give careful consideration to things like the cost of repairs for an older vehicle, the gas mileage, and insurance and registration costs when you compare getting a different car.

Check your credit report and make sure you have a clean report. If not, work on tidying up the dings or errors that might be on it.

Get an accurate assessment of the value of your home. Meet with real estate agents and consult industry professionals to get advice and determine the market value of your home.

Once, you've taken these action steps, then you can begin to look at your options. First, consider if you can rent out any rooms in your home to help provide some extra income until your either have to sell or your home is no longer underwater.

Do you have the option to move out of your home and rent it? Would it bring in enough money? Is there a relative or friends you could live with for a period of time?

If selling is imminent, contact your bank and try to negotiate a lower interest rate on the balance of your mortgage. If you have late payments, ask the bank to forgive the late payments or to put the late payments at the backend of your mortgage. It will, at least, buy you some time.

Get help from expert resources to provide other options. There are solutions but you have to seek assistance to get the answers and guidance you need. Most of the time, the bank does not want to take back your home. The foreclosure process is a headache for everyone, including the bank. So, it's in everyone's best interest to keep you in your home and to have you continue to make your monthly mortgage, even if there has to be some negotiating and comprising by all.

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Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website:

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

Contact Phoebe at (858) 259-3646 or Visit for more information.

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