Values still are falling in most of the region, and that trend is expected to continue into next year. It could be a decade or more before underwater borrowers regain their lost equity. In the meantime, their options are limited and all come with major drawbacks.
“A lot of people were swept up in the euphoria going on at the time and felt if they didn’t buy a house then, they’d be priced out of the market forever,” said Mike Larson, a housing analyst in Jupiter. “They probably jumped off the fence before they were ready to be homeowners, and now they feel trapped.”
Lisa and Victor Perez paid $243,000 for a two-bedroom villa west of Boynton Beach in April 2006. They considered themselves lucky to get a home at a price that seemed reasonable at the time.
The couple say they’re current on their payments but discouraged because the mortgage is severely underwater. Homes in their community are selling for about $100,000 now. Their unit is assessed by Palm Beach County at $96,840.
The Perezes, both 46, would like to pursue job opportunities in Georgia or another state, but they can’t seriously consider moving anytime soon.
“We don’t know what to do,” said Lisa, who has a background in direct marketing, though she isn’t working now. “All I want is for my house to be put back to market value.”
Many underwater borrowers would have to bring $100,000 or more to the closing table if they tried to sell now. They likely can’t qualify for a refinancing or a loan modification because they’re not behind on the mortgage payments, their homes have lost too much value, or both.