Q.: My husband and I own a town house that we bought right before the real estate bubble burst. As it stands, we owe about $30,000 more on the place than the estimated market value. To make matters worse, the neighborhood two blocks away from us has experienced a significant jump in property crimes and violent crimes, with a lot of drug dealing going on. The neighborhood on the other side of our house is full of single-family homes and is more established. We'd like to move before things get worse. I don't believe the troubled neighborhood has hit rock bottom yet.
We do not have $30,000 in savings or investments, other than retirement investments, to pay off the $30,000. If we go ahead and list our house, what are our options as far as finding a new place to live? – Reader in Madison, Wis.
A.: You might consult with your mortgage company to see if there's a possibility of a short sale, in which the mortgage company essentially agrees to accept less than the amount it is owed for the property and forgive the rest of the loan. The problem here is that you probably are not behind on payments, and the mortgage company has no incentive to negotiate.