Investment Mortgage

How to navigate an upside-down mortgage amidst economic uncertainty

By Milo

May 21, 2023 5 min read

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How to navigate an upside-down mortgage amidst economic uncertainty

In a fluctuating economy, the threat of recession often brings the issue of upside-down mortgages to the forefront. Understanding this concept, and its potential consequences, and exploring key solutions such as refinancing programs can provide valuable peace of mind in these uncertain times.

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What is an ‘upside-down’ mortgage?

Often termed as an 'underwater mortgage', an upside-down mortgage occurs when the balance of your mortgage loan exceeds the current market value of your home1. This situation is particularly challenging as homeowners find themselves trapped, owing more than their asset is worth. An infamous example of such a scenario occurred during the 2008 housing crisis, where declining property prices left many homeowners with upside-down mortgages2.

What causes an upside-down mortgage?

Factors like sudden drops in property values, economic downturns, or high mortgage interest rates often contribute to upside-down mortgage situations2. In fact, during the 2008 crisis, a dramatic fall in housing prices led to a staggering 8.8 million U.S homeowners being trapped in upside-down mortgages by 2010.3

The implications of an upside-down mortgage

Being in an upside-down mortgage situation can have a profound impact on your credit score and overall financial standing. The central issue lies in the mismatch between the mortgage loan's balance and the home's current market value. This imbalance can significantly strain homeowners' finances, leading to the possibility of missed payments.

Consider this scenario: A homeowner has a mortgage loan of $500,000, but due to a sudden downturn in the market, their home's value drops to $400,000. The homeowner is now left owing $100,000 more than their home is worth. Given this challenging situation, the homeowner might struggle to keep up with the monthly mortgage payments, especially if their financial circumstances change, such as a job loss or an unexpected major expense.

Missed mortgage payments are a red flag to lenders and can lead to a series of adverse outcomes. Once a payment is late by 30 days, lenders typically report it to the credit bureaus, which can cause the homeowner's credit score to drop. The longer the payment is overdue, the more significant the credit score's potential decrease.

Moreover, if the homeowner can't catch up on their payments, the lender might eventually foreclose on the property. Foreclosure can severely damage one's credit score, sometimes reducing it by 200-300 points, and this negative mark can remain on the credit report for seven years2.

In addition to personal financial repercussions, upside-down mortgages also carry broader implications for the housing market. As more homeowners cannot meet their mortgage payments, foreclosure rates can increase. High foreclosure rates can, in turn, contribute to falling property values in the area, creating a vicious cycle of depreciating home values and more upside-down mortgages3.

Strategies for managing an upside-down mortgage situation

Homeowners facing an upside-down mortgage have various strategies at their disposal. From persevering with payments to considering a loan modification, each approach comes with its own advantages and challenges. It's crucial to examine each option carefully to choose the most suitable solution for your situation.

The following table provides a comparative view of these strategies:

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Avoiding Upside-Down Mortgage Situations

Preventive measures are crucial when it comes to avoiding upside-down mortgages. Before purchasing a home, consider the following actions:

Conduct Thorough Market Research: Understanding the property market trends in your area can help predict potential downturns.

Make a Sizeable Down Payment: A larger down payment can reduce the risk of your mortgage going underwater.

Secure a Favorable Interest Rate: Opting for a mortgage with a low-interest rate can help manage monthly payments more comfortably, even in an economic downturn. Programs like Milo's refinancing solution can be invaluable in achieving this.

In uncertain economic times, understanding the risks and solutions associated with upside-down mortgages becomes essential. By leveraging knowledge and resources like Milo's refinancing program, you can navigate these potentially turbulent financial waters more effectively.


  1. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. (2010). What is an Underwater Mortgage?
  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2020). What if I owe more on my mortgage than my property is worth?
  3. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. (2012). The State of the Nation's Housing 2012.
  4. Experian. (2020). How Foreclosure Works and How it Impacts Your Credit.

The opinions expressed in the Blog are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security or investment product.


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