6 Strategies for Dealing with an Underwater Mortgage

Stay and pay? Refinance? The pros and cons of several options.

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6. Bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy won't erase mortgage debt. "What you're doing in a bankruptcy is you're trying to give yourself a reprieve," explains Detweiler. Eliminating other debts could free up money to cover your mortgage, and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy could allow you to catch up on payments for five years without interest. But it doesn't allow you to stop paying the mortgage altogether. "In some areas of the country, you are able to wipe out a second loan that has become unsecured because the value of your property has dropped," says Detweiler. "Unfortunately, our current bankruptcy codes let borrowers negotiate any kind of debt but mortgages."

Whether you're planning to stay and pay or you're considering bankruptcy, Detweiler stresses that it's a good idea to consult an attorney early on. "Don't make that your last resort," she says. "Specifically, a bankruptcy attorney could help you decide if you can afford to stay in your home."

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