Underwater on your mortgage

Owe more on your Phoenix home that it is worth? Welcome to the Underwater Club. It’s not a pleasant club to belong to, despite its massive size.

If you bought a home, or refinanced an existing home, anytime circa 2005 and beyond you are quite likely a member of the Underwater Club. And you’ve got to be wondering what your options are. Foreclosure, short sale, loan modification, trustee sale, default, walking away, deed in lieu, foreclosure abatement – all are big buzz words of late.

And they are complicated buzz words, fraught with legal, tax and credit implications.

I can’t tell you how many people that are underwater on their mortgage (or mortgages) have asked us questions like, “What should we do?”, “Should we stop making our mortgage payments?”, “Can the lender or IRS come after us if we short sell, or default, or mail in the keys?”

You don’t have to look far on the internet to see that Arizona is an “anti-deficiency state” – ie: lenders can’t come after you for the balance of your mortgage.

Not so fast folks. Yes, there is some anti-deficiency protection in Arizona. Keyword some. There is NOT blanket anti-deficiency protection for all types of mortgages, or homes, or actions you may take surrounding your underwater status. Every situation is different.

BE VERY CAREFUL. Do the wrong thing, or do the right thing the wrong way and you may find a process server knocking on your door.

If you talk to a real estate agent and they tell you things like, “Don’t worry, you are protected” or “Arizona is an anti-deficiency state” or “you need to stop making your mortgage payments” you need to run, not walk, away.

Real estate agents are neither licensed nor trained to make such bold sweeping statements.

You need legal advice

I can not stress this enough. YOU NEED LEGAL ADVICE and with very rare exceptions, real estate agents aren’t trained or licensed to give legal advice.