Earlier this week, we discussed how 2005 and 2006 were the worst years for homeowners to purchase a home in South Florida since the Great Depression. Homes sold at peak prices, but since the housing market crashed, homes have lost a significant amount of value and thousands of borrowers now owe more on their mortgages than what their homes are worth. As a result of growing debt and lost equity in homes, many homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure or are contemplating walking away from their homes because they don’t know what else they can do. However, foreclosure is not the only solution for Florida residents. More homeowners may be able to file for personal bankruptcy while keeping their homes and consolidating other debts.
We briefly discussed on Monday how the Sun-Sentinel reported some depressing figures about home values in South Florida. When home prices peaked in 2005 and 2006, the median price for a home in Broward County was $391,100. The median home price peaked at $421,500 in Palm Beach County. According to the Florida’s Realtors, the median price for a home in Broward County has dropped by 58 percent and home prices in Palm Beach County have dropped by 54 percent. Research indicates that this means about 51 percent of home mortgages in Broward County are underwater and 44 percent of home mortgages in Palm Beach County are now underwater. Between the two counties, over 370,000 homes are worth less than what is owed.
Many homeowners can’t afford to stay in their homes, but owing more on the mortgage than what the home is worth also means that homeowners can’t refinance at a lower monthly payment. Homeowners feel trapped and believe that foreclosure is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be. Homeowners may want to consider filing for bankruptcy protection if they desire to keep their home. When an individual files bankruptcy, certain property must be turned over so that the property can be sold to pay off debts. However, some property is considered exempt, meaning that debtors can usually keep their homes and a primary vehicle.
Bankruptcy lawyers in Florida understand that many residents are struggling with debt and underwater mortgages. They realize that homeowners may feel trapped in their financial situations, but homeowners are encouraged to seek out all of their options instead of surrendering to foreclosure.
Sun Sentinel: “Homes bought five years ago the hardest to sell,” Paul Owers, 6 Mar. 2011