By Kurtis Ming

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — More than half of homeowners in Sacramento,San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are upside down on their mortgages, owing more than their homes are worth.   You can bet the conversation whether people should keep making the payments or walk away from a bad investment is happening in every single neighborhood in our area.  

Here are the numbers from regarding homes that are underwater in your county.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do at all.  I don’t have a clue,” Amilia Blackwell said.

Married with a toddler and a baby on the way, she and her husband Jakob are feeling the pressure of living in an underwater home.  They owe $40-thousand more than theirCitrus Heightshome is worth.    The couple faces the moral versus business decision; should they keep making the payments or walk away?

“That’s our main conversation.  What are we going to do?” Jakob said.

Financial expert, TV host and author Suze Orman says everyone should be looking at the value of their homes.

“If you own a home that is 50% underwater, 70% underwater, it will never ever, ever come back to where you purchased it.” Orman said.    

 In her book The Money Class, Orman says if you like your house and are only 10% or 20% underwater, keep making your payments.  But what if it’s worse than that?

“Do the calculations everybody.  How much is it costing you to actually stay in that house?  How many years will it take for you to pay more than that house is worth?  If it’s 3 years, 4 years, 5 years; are you kidding me? That’s a house you really need to say bye bye.  It’s not worth the money.”

Using her theory, say your house is worth $150,000 and your monthly mortgage including property tax and insurance is $2,500.   You will pay $150,000 dollars; the current value of your house; in five years.   In that case, Orman says try to get your bank to modify your loan.

“If the banks will not work with you, then you need to either do a short sale.  If they will not allow a short sale, then do a deed in lieu of foreclosure.  If they won’t do that then walk away.  It’s just how it is.”

When Mary Beth and Bob Stucky say the bank wouldn’t work with them on their Somerset home which was underwater more than $200,000, they walked away becoming renters.

We were there on moving day last year.  Mary Beth was still struggling with the morals of walking away.

“It’s probably from my father that you don’t walk away when you make a commitment,” she said during while choking back tears in December 2009.

One year later? 

“I’m happy.  I feel secure,” she says.

Mary Beth realizes it was a bad investment.   She and Bob are now renting a bigger home with more land and a rental payment a fraction of their old mortgage.   It’s allowed them to build up a healthy savings account.

“We’re doing quite well and at the end of the storm, we’re going to be positioned to get back into the market and make our lives better,” Bob said.

But it could be years before they’ll qualify to buy a home again.   

Rob Sorenson of Folsom walked away from his home a couple years ago.  It’s the only blemish on his credit history and was enough to cause his credit score to plummet.

“Slowly but surely all the credit card issuers said you know we’d rather not have your business anymore because of your credit risk,” Sorenson said.

When his yellow lab Rosco got sick Rob had to ask family for help.    He had no credit card to pay for the $2,000 dollar vet bill.

“That’s what I depended upon for my safety nets before.   Now I don’t have that safety net,”

Sorenson and the Stucky family knew the risks of walking away.   They have to live on cash.  If they don’t have the cash they have to save up to buy whatever they want.

 Beth Mills with the California Bankers Association warns walking way or strategically defaulting as it’s called; has a larger impact bringing down your neighbors’ property values keeping the housing market from recovering.

“When you signed a loan document, you made a commitment you made a promise to pay,” she said.   “We hope people will continue to honor that commitment.”

But Orman says if you failed to get your bank to listen, you shouldn’t feel guilty.

“You have to make the attempt to work with them.  If they won’t work with you, then I think you can stand in your truth and leave that home.”

Orman says the new American dream may mean never owning a home again.

“And if you do rent for the rest of your life, it’s not a big deal.  Who cares?   Just invest that money you would’ve put in your home somewhere else.”

The Blackwell’s realize any decision they make involving their home will hurt somehow.         

With a baby due in September, they’re up against the clock to make the right decision.

“We want to be proactive now and figure out a solution, so that in September with baby #2, we’re not as bad off at that point,” Amilia said.      

Orman says if you’re thinking of walking away or doing a short sale, now is the time to do it.    Sometimes it takes a year or more for a short sale or foreclosure to go through.   A federal tax break for short sales and foreclosures is set to expire at the end of 2012.  That means come January 1, 2013 you may have to pay tax on any home loan you walk away from.   So if you’re $100,000 underwater you’ll have to pay the federal government taxes on the $100,000.

Before making any decision, you should talk with a real estate or tax attorney to see the potential impacts you could face.

Orman says it’s time to erase feelings of hopelessness, rethink your ways and moving toward the new American dream.

“The new American dream really is a dream that allows you to sleep at night where you feel secure, and you know what is yours cannot be taken away again, because of the actions of others.”

Comments (77)
  1. WR says:

    I wrote an article on this as well:

    “Should I stay or should I go” is a tough, emotionally wrenching question.

  2. Greed did this says:

    This is what we have become .We borrow from from banks to buy cars a house school and so on. what happen to the responsibility by the banks investors people to pay it back! what happen to the rules and lending standards. greed is good we do not have to pay it back we have laws and we reward the irresponsible with bailouts and bankruptcy so lets inflate the market and borrow and buy to borrow to buy more because we do not have to pay it back. you would be stupid if you are the responsible one

    1. mary says:

      Until you go through it don’t judge people. Banks don’t want to help people that lose their jobs by modifying their loan. Also banks are escrowing anyone who tries to modify and gets turned down to find a bill of 2 1/2 years of taxes and bumps their mortgage up another 8 hundred dollars a month for over a year or more. It makes me wonder if these banks want these poor people to foreclose so they can collect their insurance they most likely took out on the home when theses people were in a trial mod and also they collect on the sheriff’s sale as well. This makes me sick!!

      1. cindy says:


        I lost my job 2 years ago and can’t seem to catch up!!! I owe my home is worth 175,000 in this market…I owe 165,000 and now I have 65,000 worth of fees!! That leaves me with a balance of 230,000 I cannot recover from……I am i my 50’s!!! I have everyone calling scammers and modification stallers (if you pay them) I don’t know the best thing…..walk away…short sale or save??????

        Anyone know????


      2. Roddy says:

        My parents have been trying for two yrs to get a mod since country wide sold to BofA . They put my parents on a temp mod for one year and said if you make your payments on time than it would be permeanete. In the mean time my parents filed bankruptcy and when that was approved the bank said the mod was denied and now there 25,000 dalors behind and still wont give them a mod. The bottom line is the banks say there here to help with the american Dream but actually there doing exactly waht you just wrote.. Very sad for everyone.. My parents hired Hoalm Helping the american Dream and we are approved for a DOJ but still haven’t recieved it,but BofA sent us a forclouser anyways. It’s sad that my parents house could be sold knowing they were aproved. So are the banks really working with the Department of Justice.

  3. mikey says:

    If you own a home that is 70% underwater, get a clue and realize you are not very good with finances. You just lost money on a really bad investment. Get sound advice next time. And by sound advice, I don’t mean some guy with a blog detailing his road back from bankruptcy. I mean your elderly relative with the paid off house and big bank account.

    1. Karen says:

      Yes and you also have to realize that 50 years ago houses were 4 to 10 thousand dollars then and people were paying 100 dollars a month for their mortgage. People don’t have to have bad finances to be under water. Mortgages are outranges and mortgage companies have to also take responsibility for this. The economy went bad. I know doctors and lawyer that lose their homes because they get laid off and cant find a job and their bills keep pilling in. Don’t judge people …you may be in this position someday and then you’ll know its not what you think it is. Walk in these people shoes for one day.

  4. Bob says:

    Mikey, keep your mouth shut. You have no idea what you are talking about.
    Do you think people just bought their homes within a year or two?> Get real..Think before opening your mouth

    1. mikey says:

      Bob, if you have been in your home more than a few years, you shouldn’t have lost 70% of the value. That home value, while you lived there, went up and down, but only on paper. That’s key. It was on paper. My east Sac home was worth $650 but only on paper, unless and until I sold it at that. If, like my neighbors, you bought at the height of the market, that’s a bad investment. There’s no other way to describe it. There, I got real.

    2. Sally says:

      Good job Bod…I agree!!!

  5. I Sell Leverage says:

    Although that may be YOUR reality Mikey, you are in the minority as you fail to understand that although most people are addressing the issue because they are “underwater” more likely their reasoning behind walking away is because the payment is too high. This may have happened for a number of reasons, but most likely it is due to an adjustable rate, recasted loan or loss in income.

    The truth of the matter is that the lenders in this country had an ethical responsibility to provide loan products that were viable products for long term growth and security and what they actually did was provide the opposite for short term profits. They did this because of the creation of products by Wall Street such as Mortgage Backed Securities and the Credit Default Swaps that allowed for such transactions as well as being armed with the knowledge that they could get BILLIONS if it failed.

    The lender’s made bad loans because in most cases they had the loan packaged and sold as part of a secondary market portfolio before the ink was dry and the 3 day rescission was over so they knew there would be profits absent toxicity from the outset.

    They also made bad loans and then hedged against those bad loans actually working by investing in their failure (see Hank Paulson). What this meant was they could go back to the well at least 3 times for profits on the same loan, 1. the original secondary loan sale (which was usually $1.07 to every $1.00), 2. the hedged failure and 3. the bailout.

    You live in East Sac where values have not dipped as far as the outlying areas such as Elk Grove, Natomas or even further like Olivehurst and beyond. However, if your house used to be valued at $650k it is likely that you are closer to 70% in losses than you think. And you can save the emotional response that your house is unlike any other in the country and “really hasn’t dropped that much in value”. Everyone in the industry knows that a homeowner ALWAYS thinks THEIR house is worth more than anyone else knows even with comps and appraisals in hand.

    Last thought: A “home” as an investment is a BAD IDEA unless it is a “house” (read: not owner occupied) . Far too many people bought into THEIR home as their retirement plan and that is costly and irresponsible but for many, because they do not understand money, this is all they felt was within reach. The majority if this city is middle class and like every other middle class before them they ceased on an opportunity to live outside their means and it has come back to bite all of us.

    However, the responsibility is not on the middle class to ensure that the lending institutions are providing viable products. That falls on the Fed and the Regulatory Commissions and their greed has allowed the continued victimization by these lenders. Therefore, the opportunity exists for ALL of us who own homes that are upside down to hit the ‘RESET’ button and GIVE IT BACK! Regardless of the how or why, take advantage of it. If you don’t Mikey, then remember this conversation in a couple decades when your value is still stuck at $500k and you have no way out except a short sale or foreclosure.!

  6. Christine malcolm says:

    I Heard if you walk away (even though you have no job etc) that you are still liable to pay what mortgage company did not recoup in auctioning house.they can put lien on salary if you are fortunate to ever get employed again.
    What then? Is this a myth?

    What if you have an inheritance in bank can mortgage company come after that?

    I have a neice who walked twice in three years in sacramento and she and her husband have jobs, gets is at a state school and no one came after them AND they niw own another house within months after waking.
    Everyone I know says they will legally come after you for life.what are the ramifications if walking out of your house? Thanks

  7. I Sell Leverage says:

    In a normal economy Christine, you are still responsible for the debt. However, because of the recession the responsibility has been exempted for the time being (on primary residences only). Having a job NEVER has anything to do with whether or not you are responsible for a debt so I’m not sure why you would make such a statement as wouldn’t people just run up their debt and quit their jobs when they couldn’t afford it?

    And as far as your niece walking away twice in 3 years all I can say is that she likely owned 3 houses, walked from 1 and moved to the other and then walked again and moved to the last. She didn’t walk away, buy a house, walk away again and now qualify to buy another house. Someone is yanking your chain.

  8. Mark Moore says:

    Strategic Default is never an easy decision, but as Suze Orman notes, mortgages that are severely underwater will not recover for a very long time.

    The HomeLiberty ( program was created for families with severe negative equity who have decided strategic default is in their financial best interest, but would like to keep their home.

    The program offers a chance for these families to keep their existing home, immediately re-establish positive equity (90% LTV), and lower their monthly payments.

    1. I Sell Leverage says:

      And here we have our first profiteer to enter the fray. Mark, your attempt to SPAM (& hopefully profit) what has, to this point, been a reasonable discussion about what to do in a difficult situation is the epitome of the problem.

      The program you list is a farce and you KNOW it doesn’t work. That is called a “short refinance” and it doesn’t exist. Companies like the aforementioned “” attempted to do this very thing 5 years ago when the problem began and the lenders refused then and they are still refusing.

      You can claim it’s a “short sale”, but quite frankly you need to be honest about the law preventing “parking” title long enough to short the sale & then reassign ownership down in the future. It’s absolutely doable, but not via a mass marketed false program such as yours which advertises an illegal solution.

      Again, it is impossible to legally “re establish positive equity” while continuing to be the legal owner of record on title. No matter how you dress it up, there is still a transfer of title involved which means the homeowner is no longer the “owner”. Present REAL solutions and not a profiteers perspective.

      1. homeliberty1 says:

        Dear I Sell,

        Respectfully, we are not a short refinance. The HomeLiberty program offers a fixed, 30 year mortgage with no prepayment penalties, and no balloon payments.

        The homeowner is free to refi if/when they find better rates, or to stay in the loan for 30 years if they wish.

        We are a fully licensed, and legal company, and our program has been reviewed for full compliance with all CA and federal regulations.

        We sincerely want to help, and I know of no other program that helps underwater homeowners that are not in financial distress. If you know of any, I hope you post your information. HomeLiberty does not require a hardship declaration.

        I don’t mind you posting an opinion, and I don’t ask you to agree with what we are trying to do. But, I would appreciate it if you would check your facts. I’m happy to discuss any issues or concerns you might have.

        HomeLiberty offers a fair, *honest*, and dignified program for families with severe negative equity giving them a chance to *immediately* re-establish 90% LTV positive equity.

        If you have a moment to review our FAQ, you will see we apply 100% of the first 13 payments to principal reduction as well. So within a year, with as little as $5,000 down, a family with 150% LTV (or worse) could be in their existing home with a 30 year loan, reduced monthly payments, and enjoying an 80% LTV.

        I don’t mind dissenting opinion, and I respect yours. There have been a number of “profiteers,” so you have every right to be suspicious.

        I only hope you have the time to get a few of the facts before stating so categorically what is just not true.

        Mark Moore, CEO
        HomeLiberty, Inc.

  9. I Sell Leverage says:

    Mr. Moore, although I applaud your desire to clean up what may be perceived as a negative perception of your company, I also believe that your program is simply another dressed up process of loan modification which the lenders have shown EVEN IN THE FACE OF GOVERNMENT PRESSURE that they will not budge on principal reduction. Your process is simply a short sale using your investor capital coupled with a promise to the “homeowner” that once the laws allow it, you will transfer title back to their name. Your are SPECULATING that the law will someday allow it and based upon previous history and current legislation there is nothing indicating that this is even remotely possible.

    I have read your FAQ’s and just because the average consumer (your target market) will not be able to find fault with your statements doesn’t mean that others won’t.

    The premise of your effort is reliant upon the one major reason this country finds itself where it does and that is the continued ignorance of a majority of the nations homeowners as to how the process works. You are attempting to use a homeowner’s emotion, which is based largely on the fallacy that home ownership IS the American Dream, AGAINST them when you likely know full well that if a homeowner goes through the process of short sale/foreclosure THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE.

    You are simply trying to make a turn key opportunity out of a bad situation which is

    1. Short Sale or let the house Foreclose
    2. Home-Liberty buys the property at auction
    3. Home Liberty then rents back the home to the previous homeowner
    4. Home Liberty then tells the homeowner to “be patient the laws will change” while the homeowner pays “rent” (since they are no longer the owner of record)

    It is a PURELY speculative effort which amounts to a glorified “lease option to buy”.

    If you are a homeowner who is forced out of your home, leave the home and all of the negativity that goes with it behind and start again in a couple of years elsewhere. Do not let the emotion of “not wanting to move” cause you to stay in a bad situation and at all costs do not allow a program such as Home LIberty (which cannot possibly provide nor does it) a guarantee that it will even work.

    My question to you Mr. Moore is, did you or someone else write the next to last statement in your FAQ section? How can you honestly claim that you “sincerely want to help” when stating that a “…severely negative equity homeowner has a moral obligation to negotiate in good faith with their lender to try and find a mutually acceptable solution”?

    The banks/lenders have STOLEN from EVERY homeowner/taxpayer in this country and you claim the homeowner’s have some sort of moral contract to try to pay them DOUBLE for the same house? If the home is delinquent, it was listed as a toxic asset on the lender’s portfolio which means they have ALREADY BEEN PAID in full.

    I applaud your capitalistic nature, but please step away from the advocacy angle you are attempting to claim. You are quite clearly in it for the returns and I can tell you right now (having been down your path 3 times in recent years) it isn’t gonna work and as soon as it seems like it’s about to catch on, the regulators will be at your doorstep with desist and refrains. Good luck.

    1. Mark Moore says:

      Dear I Sell,

      Again, I really don’t mind your distrust of most companies offering services and products to homeowners in the terrible situation that severe negative equity represents. I also thank you for taking the time to respond at such length. It’s clear you care about the negative equity problem. But, I continue to ask you to be clear about what is opinion when you state it as fact.

      First, HomeLiberty does not rent the property back to the homeowner. We sell it back to them at a price that they agree is fair. At a price that is 90% of a written appraisal by a licensed, independent appraiser (assuming the borrower makes their payments on time). We provide a written offer to sell, with written terms, and we even offer seller side financing with locked terms because most homeowners in this situations cannot qualify anywhere else.

      Second, this is not some vague promise for “when the laws change” as you claim. We execute a written, signed, and binding CONTRACT obligating HomeLiberty to transfer title to the buyer (the original homeowner) as soon as we are recorded as the owner. The buyer typically is recorded as owner of record less than a week after foreclosure.

      You continue to assert that our process is not allowed under California law, but you have not been in contact with us to understand our program or contracts (e.g. you missed that we extend a written contract to buy, not a verbal promise to rent/lease to own).

      I don’t know if you practice law in California, but Doss Law, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Julia Leah Greenfield, Esq. have all reviewed the HomeLiberty program and found no state or federal laws prohibiting it. If you continue to claim it is not allowed, I hope you can be more specific.

      Respectfully, HomeLiberty won’t “step away from the advocacy,” because we are dedicated to bringing fair, honest, and dignified solutions to the homeowners with severe negative equity.

      I don’t know of any other organization offering programs to help homeowners who can make their payments, but can’t justify the negative equity. I don’t know of any other organization dedicated to creating a real, economic reason for lenders to forgive principal on severely underwater mortgages.

      Mark Moore, CEO
      HomeLiberty, Inc.

  10. gloria says:

    Mr. Moore, no offense intended as I find your exchange with ISL to this point informative, but just because you got a few lawyers to say that they, “have all reviewed the HomeLiberty program and found no state or federal laws prohibiting it” does not mean that it is lawful. What will be more curious to all of us is, as ISL claims may happen, will those same attorney’s be there to stand by your side and defend you in a court of law against the Departments of Real Estate’s in various states if/when it happens? What about the code of ethics violations for those attorney’s when the Bar association says they intentionally participated in a program which, after even a cursory review, violates the spirit of the law. I think you feel confident that you have found a loophole in which to claim that the law doesn’t prohibit your actions. However, a loophole can be found in ANY situation (i.e. this recession) where we are entering a period of the unknown. That has not ever stopped them from claiming you are violating the spirit of the law, if not the letter. As has been stated, it will probably be wise for you to save s much money as possible for your defense because “they” will soon be at your door if you show the ability to talk people into this program. What you have failed to state is your results to this point. The absence of your willingness to do so tells me that you either have yet to be successful, or your success rate is so far below what can be considered effective you are unwilling to present them as fact.

  11. Mark Moore says:


    Thank you for taking the time to post. And, I especially appreciate the civility of your post even though it is evident you do not approve of the program as you understand it. Thank you.

    We are aware that this is a very contentious area that evokes very strong passions. I appreciate your advice, and we have made plans for mounting a vigorous defense if/when required.

    The first step, of course, is to make sure we comply with the law as written, and as intended. I assure you we have made every effort to be fully compliant. We are definitely not depending on some loophole to help the families we work with. We at HomeLiberty are dedicated to honest, fair, and dignified solutions for our customers.

    On the numbers, I can understand your suspicion, Gloria. But, you are mistaken. We have achieved 100% success so far, but I really hesitate to publish that because I do not want to characterize that as our expected success rate.

    So far, we have had no short-sale purchase offers accepted, and we have purchased all of the properties at foreclosure auction. We currently plan to purchase 1 to 2 homes per month, and we want to build this to 10 a month by the end of the year.

    We are very happy to have achieved 100% success so far, but I do not want anyone to believe they can be guaranteed to save their house *and* lower their principal.

    A home owner with severe negative equity can be guaranteed of one OR the other, but not both. The only guarantee to keep the house is to get current on all payments and late fees and cure the default if possible.

    If eliminating the negative equity is the higher priority, there is some very real risk they will lose the house.

    Anyone that promises both is lying.

    For a very detailed discussion of the worst case success rate, please see this discussion on[1]

    If you have not seen our FAQ (] I think it answers most of the issues you raised. If not, I would sincerely appreciate your suggestions on what information we can add to improve our website.

    Mark Moore, CEO
    HomeLiberty, Inc.


  12. San says:

    Mr Moore, I to have read your FAQ and “how to improve your website” is to stop lying to homeowners who are in financial stress b/c of lenders like yourself. You want to help, I begged the difference you don’t want to help. You and your other lending institutions like chase, wells fargo, bank of america are only out to continue to NOT help homeowners. When your banks/lenders needed help, the government step in to help you guys, but when the homeowner’s needed help, You deny their refinance or give us hardworking homeowners the “round around”

    1. Mark Moore says:


      I apologize for not responding sooner, but I only just saw your comment.

      I am sorry for what it sounds like you have gone through. It is exactly this refusal to help that we saw that caused us to start HomeLiberty. I can understand how you might think we are a bank. We are not. We are a group of individuals that have worked hard to create a fair, honest, and dignified alternative for families with severe negative equity.

      We do in fact help real people save their homes. And we would be happy to have you talk to them.

      Again, I understand your anger and frustration with traditional lenders. But, we work hard to tell the full truth in all of our communications. We are not “lying to homeowners” on our website, and if there is something you believe we should change, PLEASE contact us directly at the address.

      Mark Moore, CEO
      HomeLiberty, Inc.

  13. Rupert says:

    Mr. Moore, it has been 6 months since your discussion and your most recent post makes no mention of any success rate. Since you felt this an appropriate forum which to market your program I wonder if you’d be willing to post your success rates and how effective your program has been to assist in avoiding foreclosure? Thank you

    1. Mark Moore says:

      One other item… HomeLiberty does not “assist in avoiding foreclosure.”

      We offer a chance to save the home for families that have decided to pursue strategic default.

      The only way to avoid foreclosure is to cure the default and get current on the loan.

  14. Mark Moore says:

    Rupert, we have captured over 70% of the homes and all of these were at the trustee sale/foreclosure auction. I would never represent any “success rate” to a customer. We are very direct with our customers that if they cannot bear losing their house, they should *not* strategically default.

    It is a very unfair decision, but they need to decide whether saving their home is THE MOST important outcome, or whether eliminating their negative equity is the most important. No one that is being honest can promise both. One *must* be the priority, and the other must be the “nice to have” result. The situation is completely unfair, but it is the situation.

    If the property is the most important, the homeowner *must* get current and then “hope” for a principal reduction from the lender.

    If eliminating the negative equity and restoring their family’s ability to build equity is the most important, they can, but they need to embrace that they could lose their home.

    Mark Moore, CEO
    HomeLiberty, Inc.

  15. Margherita Chapple says:

    One thing I would like to touch upon is that weightloss program fast may be possible by the right diet and exercise. Someone’s size not merely affects appearance, but also the complete quality of life. Self-esteem, depression, health risks, plus physical skills are influenced in weight gain. It is possible to do everything right and at the same time having a gain. If this happens, a medical problem may be the culprit. While excessive food and never enough body exercise are usually guilty, common health conditions and widely used prescriptions can greatly amplify size. I am grateful for your post in this article. 17 days diet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s