Should You Swim Away From an Underwater Mortgage?

BY Paul Solman  January 3, 2011 at 10:42 AM EST

Your mortgage is underwater. Making the payments is both difficult and demoralizing. Is it ethical for you to walk away?

As we’ve reported, there are arguments both ways.

Here’s a feature to help you make up your mind. Public broadcasting station KQED of San Francisco generated this interactive tool about a year ago.


“We wanted to present users with a hot-button issue that people tend to think of passionately, think of in black-and-white terms,” said Nick Vidinsky, a producer on KQED’s You Decide project.

“Then we present ideas, facts and information that would challenge the preconceived notions they came into the yes-no question with.”

So, what would you do? Try it out. See how your choice compares with others. While the home price index data is slightly dated, it still reflects the general picture. In the words of the interactive graphic: “more than 80 markets nationwide can expect to see at least half of mortgage borrowers underwater in 2011.”

“Should you walk away from an underwater mortgage?” is a part of KQED’s You Decide project, which was created as part of a collaboration with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other public media outlets, including the NewsHour, to cover the economic crisis. A PBS post about it resides here.