The conundrum facing Florida homeowners is becoming more complex by the day, as lenders stop foreclosures in Southwest Florida (birthplace of the "rocket docket" where courts gave short shrift to homeowner defenses) and the Fifth Circuit has ruled that homeowners' associations can force banks that have successfully foreclosed to actually follow through with foreclosure sales (once the sale is completed, the bank has to begin making payments to the HOA or condo association--something that they were using interminable delays to avoid doing). The only thing that many homeowners know for certain is that they are deeply underwater with no prospect of the value of their home climbing above the mortgage balance anytime soon, and that prices are likely to go even lower.

Many homeowners walk away when the home value is 20-25% underwater, and banks have made mighty efforts to keep properties off the market to avoid further depressing home values and feeding a vicious cycle of defaults, but most people know that there is a "shadow inventory" out there and with Florida law now allowing cash-strapped HOAs and condo boards to spur sales, that inventory is posed to step into the spotlight. Meanwhile, the stigma of foreclosure fades month by month as their friends, neighbors and co-workers go through it.

If you know that your home's value is well below its mortgage balance, you need to do some soul-searching, but you also need to seek competent advice from a real estate or legal professional. Whether you stay or go, your financial life is at stake and it is a decision that you ultimately must make for yourself based on your own values and on how you see the future of the neighborhood developing. What may be right for one homeowner may be the wrong prescription for a home in a neighboring subdivision. A professional can help you make those key decisions.