When the housing bubble burst, home values plummeted and innumerable New Yorkers found that the balances on their mortgages were higher than their houses’ values. Their equity had been wiped out, yet many of them continued staying in their homes nonetheless when they should have seen New York bankruptcy attorney to discuss their options.
Why would they stay and continue paying? This has become a big question bankruptcy attorneys ask themselves. The answers help them counsel clients into making the best decisions for their circumstances. We can think of five reasons.
One, people feel obligated to honor their contracts. Talking about “duty” confuses the issue. Doesn’t the bank have a duty to loan money to people who can repay it? Aren’t they supposed to accept the risks of making a bad loan? Why should anyone care about a bank’s feelings in breaking an agreement with it? It seems that many homeowners still hold this view.
Two, New Yorkers love their homes. Americans in general consider home ownership a substantial achievement and are willing to pursue it any cost. They may also have concerns about what moving into a smaller home will do to their children, though growing up in a financially troubled household may not necessarily be the better option.
Three, people are worried what not staying and paying will do to their credit ratings. Sure, some people can eventually pay down the loan after their equity is wiped out, but it’s often the harbinger of worse financial circumstances, which worsens credit anyway. However, it’s true that many options are closed to them, such as renegotiating the principal or moving into a rent-to-own agreement with the bank. This leaves options that will impact their credit scores.
Four—and this is a stretch—maybe underwater homeowners are hoping the government will provide some kind of relief. It’s nice to be hopeful, but based on the way things have been going in Washington, you may not want to hold your breath. Holding out for relief just isn’t likely to work and will probably require homeowners to make the same decisions under tougher circumstances in the future.
Five, reputation and status play a big role in people’s decision-making. This may be the biggest problem underwater homeowners have. Houses aren’t just where we live but are also the face we show our community. If we can’t afford the payments or may have to move, it causes great psychic and social damage.
While staying in an underwater home is the owner’s choice, it’s important not to delay the inevitable. If people’s financial positions worsen, say due to a job loss or an illness, they’ll be thrust deeper into their debt problems. Thus, they live under constant stress because of the risks inherent to their choices.
Consulting with an experienced New York bankruptcy attorney is about easing the burdens of the present to ease the burdens of the future. Turning that around, that means staying and paying means spending more money now to spend more money later, though the stress comes free.
For more questions about bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.