I received a letter in the mail the other day from the lender of our second mortgage. The second mortgage is technically an interest only HELOC. Arguably not the best method of buying a house, but that's an entirely different post.
Although I call it a house, where we live is technically a townhouse. That is, the building our house is in also holds two other townhouses. Fortunately, we have an end unit, so we only share one wall and have direct access to the garage, which adds to the value of our home. Unfortunately, townhouses and condos are usually the first to drop when the housing market takes a hit.
When we bought our house in 2005, we paid $280,000 (Remember, this is Massachusetts). It was appraised 2 weeks after we closed for $305,000. Sweet! Very exciting. Instant equity. Of course, what something is worth only counts if you're selling it.
The letter from our second mortgage stated that we couldn't further draw on our HELOC because our house's value had dropped so much. I don't know exactly how they calculate the houses' value or how much of the value they will lend up to, so it's difficult to say if our house's value has dropped so much that we are now upside down on our mortgage. It's possible, if it dropped enough. We didn't have any plans to draw further on the HELOC, or take any equity our of house at all, so that part doesn't affect us directly. What I am worried about is when we do want to sell our house.
I checked Zillow.com, and they list our house at $253,000 currently. Their estimates aren't perfectly accurate, but the letter from our mortgage company lends a bit of credibility as well. I want to close my eyes and shut it out, but it appears we now owe more on our house than it is worth. Or at least it's close.
When we bought our house, we intended to live here for 3-5 years. This summer will be 3 years, and we moving isn't even on the horizon right now, for a variety of reasons. We'll be staying put for the foreseeable future, and we may end up staying past what we had originally planned. There is still plenty of room here, even for when we eventually start adding people. I just liked having the option to move if we wanted to, and right now it would be pretty foolish to do so. Even more reason to pay down the debt - eventually we'll get to paying off the mortgage!