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Mortgage crisis hurting more than homeowners

A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home in Los Angeles, Calif., recently. The Obama administration is trying to jump-start its sputtering plan to tackle the foreclosure crisis with an effort to assist up to 1.5 million homeowners who owe more on their properties than their homes are worth. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home in Los Angeles, Calif., recently. Homeowners who are upside-down on their mortgages are also hurting the residential construction and remodeling industries. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

By Tom Fetters

Fifteen million and counting.

That’s the number of homeowners underwater on their mortgages at the end of 2010’s first quarter, and, based on an Associated Press article this week, are unlikely to help revive the residential construction or remodeling sectors anytime soon.

Many Americans who, because of the housing market bust, find themselves owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. They are pretty much stuck in their properties, unable to sell and move and often unwilling to spend on improvements, according to the article.

Take the Woolleys, for example. The Chicago couple tried to move but couldn’t. They bought their condo in August 2006 for $228,000, according to the article. But earlier this year Cheryl Woolley had to give up a higher-paying job in Atlanta because their lender refused to approve the sale of their Chicago condo for $160,000, insisting that the sale amount be at least $190,000.

SEE RESOURCES FOR UNDERWATER HOMEOWNERS

So no new construction jobs building an Atlanta home for the Woolleys.

“We’re tethered to our house like a sharecropper,” Wade Woolley is quoted as saying of their financial straits.

And because of the their mortgage situation, they opted to keep their condo’s 85-year-old windows instead of replacing them with energy-efficient units, according to the article.

So no remodeling jobs fixing up the couple’s Chicago home, either.

“It is really just one of a number of home improvement projects that we may never do,” Cheryl Woolley said. “It’s difficult to justify such expenditures when you’re as upside-down as we are.”

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. Having lived in Michigan, he could write a book about underwater mortgages.

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