Which of the following accurately describes an “upside-down” or “underwater” mortgage?

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An “upside-down” or “underwater” mortgage refers to a situation where the outstanding balance on a mortgage loan exceeds the current value of the property securing the loan. This can occur when the value of the property decreases or when the homeowner borrows additional funds against the property, leading to negative equity. In this article, we will explore the concept of an upside-down mortgage in more detail, including its causes and potential consequences.

Causes of an Upside-Down Mortgage

There are several factors that can contribute to a homeowner finding themselves in an upside-down mortgage situation. One common cause is a decline in the property’s value. This can happen due to a downturn in the real estate market, economic factors, or specific circumstances affecting the property itself, such as natural disasters or changes in the surrounding neighborhood.

Another cause is borrowing against the property’s equity. Homeowners may take out a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to finance other expenses, such as home improvements, education, or medical bills. If the property’s value subsequently decreases, the total debt secured by the property may exceed its current market value.

Consequences of an Upside-Down Mortgage

Having an upside-down mortgage can have several significant consequences for homeowners. Firstly, it limits their options if they need to sell the property. Since the outstanding loan balance is higher than the property’s value, selling the home may not generate enough funds to repay the mortgage in full. This can lead to a short sale, where the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed, or even foreclosure if the homeowner is unable to make the mortgage payments.

Furthermore, an upside-down mortgage can make it challenging to refinance the loan. Lenders typically require a certain amount of equity in the property to approve a refinance application. When the loan balance exceeds the property’s value, homeowners may not meet the necessary criteria for refinancing, leaving them with higher interest rates or unfavorable loan terms.

Additionally, an upside-down mortgage can have a negative impact on a homeowner’s credit score. If they are unable to make the mortgage payments and default on the loan, it can result in a foreclosure, which severely damages their creditworthiness. This can make it harder to secure future loans or obtain favorable interest rates.

Strategies for Dealing with an Upside-Down Mortgage

If a homeowner finds themselves in an upside-down mortgage situation, there are a few strategies they can consider. One option is to continue making regular mortgage payments and wait for the property’s value to increase over time. This approach requires patience and a long-term perspective, but it can eventually restore positive equity.

Another strategy is to negotiate with the lender for a loan modification. This could involve reducing the interest rate, extending the loan term, or even forgiving a portion of the principal balance. Loan modifications can help homeowners make their mortgage payments more affordable and potentially bring the loan balance closer to the property’s value.

Finally, homeowners facing an upside-down mortgage may choose to sell the property through a short sale. In a short sale, the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed on the mortgage. While this will still negatively impact the homeowner’s credit score, it can provide a way to avoid foreclosure and move on from the upside-down mortgage situation.


An upside-down or underwater mortgage occurs when the outstanding loan balance exceeds the current value of the property. It can be caused by a decline in property value or borrowing against the property’s equity. Consequences of an upside-down mortgage include limited selling options, difficulties in refinancing, and potential damage to the homeowner’s credit score. However, there are strategies available to deal with this situation, such as waiting for property value to increase, negotiating a loan modification, or pursuing a short sale.


– Investopedia: www.investopedia.com
– The Balance: www.thebalance.com
– Bankrate: www.bankrate.com