JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Local homeowners are drowning in mortgage debt. A new report shows almost half of Jacksonville homes are underwater.
"The beach life is something we've always wanted to have, and this should be our last move before we retire," said homeowner Roger Austin.
Now he and his family may have to leave their dream home in Jacksonville Beach much sooner than they thought.
"I'm basically in limbo right now. I'm waiting to see what the results are going to be," said Austin.
He has been fighting the foreclosure of his home for the past year.
"We're not the bad people, I'm here to tell ya. We do want to pay our bills. We do want to be a part of society, a contributing part of society," he said.
His foreclosure attorney, Chip Parker, said he's been seeing more and more cases of middle class families losing their shirts in this economy.
"The bank has a side bet that you are going to lose your home. They have insurance that's going to pay them in many instances if they go through with the foreclosure," said Parker.
That's why he said it's important to be proactive, and talk to your lender if you start falling behind on your payments.
"You should be finding out whether or not they have any programs that could possibly help you," he said.
He said many banks and lenders do have programs to help families who are struggling to pay their mortgage. Also, he advises clients to keep a written record of every interaction with the bank and lender, and request one in return.
"You must not trust anything that anyone says. If it's not in writing, then it doesn't exsist," said Parker.
While it may be overwhelming, the situation is far from unique.
A neighborhood survey in May found more than five-and-a-half million home owners are 90 days or more late on their mortgage payments.
"It gets to the point that it's all that's on your mind sometimes. You're thinking about what could I have done differently? What should I have done differently," asked Austin.
First Coast News