One in four borrowers is underwater on a mortgage in the U.S. Count me among them.

My family’s modest, suburban New Jersey house is now worth about $30,000 less than our current balance. We never dreamed of walking away, but the idea of “strategically defaulting,” is something we had to at least consider. Many others have, too. We’re not home flippers or boom-era borrowers who opted for an exotic loan with no documentation. In buying our house, we believed we were making a life decision.We started thinking about buying in 2004, when my wife and I found out that we were having a baby. We were thrilled. Shortly after that, we learned we were having multiple babies, we were equally thrilled–and terrified.We’re going to need a bigger place, we thought.We probably could have held out a few years in our sizable apartment in Metuchen, N.J., a bedroom community about 35 miles outside of New York City. But we knew interest rates were hovering at historic lows. It was impossible, working at The Wall Street Journal, to not read those headlines every day. At the same time, people all around me were buying homes and refinancing their mortgages to capture these relatively inexpensive home loans. It was like a race, and everyone else was crossing the finish line while I was still putting on my sneakers.
By Brian R. Fitzgerald, Dec. 15, 2009 WSJ

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