What to Do if You’re Upside-Down in a Home Loan

Reed Pirain

It’s one of the scariest situations a homeowner can find themselves in.

When a person owes more than their house is worth, the phone calls begin. Mortgage companies try to get owners on track while owners try to find more time, more money, or both. Some end up facing eviction or repossession. Others may be forced to sell without having a place to go.

Reed Pirain explains that the number of homeowners who find themselves upside-down on a loan — also called “underwater” or holding “negative equity” — fluctuates year-to-year and state-to-state.

Recent analysis from Redfin estimates that if the value of homes drops around 4%, the expected figure, by the end of 2023, around 3.5% of homeowners who purchased property between 2021 and 2022 will find themselves underwater.  

However, that’s a lower figure than the reported 6.2% who were underwater with their mortgage by 2020, according to Attom Data Solutions. 

Here’s some advice and a few possible approaches a homeowner should consider if they find themselves underwater or fear that they might be soon. 

Don’t Panic

First thing’s first: Determine whether a mortgage is actually underwater. Sometimes, homeowners are overreacting to a slight change in home value or scary economic reports.

First, look to see how much is still owed by reviewing the latest mortgage statement. Next, pinpoint the actual value of the home.

Estimates on real estate sites are rarely accurate. Instead, talk to a trusted real estate agent or have an appraiser give a professional estimate.

Once those two figures are acquired, simply subtract what is owed from the current value of the home. For example, if $250,000 is owed on the mortgage but the value is $235,000, that’s a relatively low underwater rate of $15,000.

Stay Put 

A homeowner discovering that they are underwater is often not reason enough to give up hope and leave the home. Depending on location, homes are often likely to see increases in value if a homeowner decides to stay in the home and continue to pay off the mortgage as usual.

Circumstances often change. Home values rise in areas deemed trendy or cities that are welcoming new companies. The economy may improve, and inflation could ease (there are usually notable economic peaks and valleys within even just a year).

In this respect, homeowners effectively ride out the market and see their homes slowly build equity again.

Reed Pirain


When more is owed on the home than what it’s worth, refinancing through a lender may prove challenging. Another option is qualifying for the HARP program, which helps owners refinance when they’re upside down.

There are some qualifying rules, such as paying one’s mortgage on time for the previous six months and others for those who started a loan before May 2009.

Other refinance options include the Enhanced Relief Refinance program offered by Freddie Mac and the High LTV Refinance Option from Fannie Mae.

Try a Short Sale

In a short sale, foreclosure is avoided when a lender accepts less for a home than what’s actually owed, effectively swallowing a loss. It’s not the best situation for homeowners either, as the short sale usually drags down their credit score.

Trends in Real Estate

Reed Pirain

Looking for a city that perfectly reflects the overall trends in real estate for 2023?

Try Pittsburgh.

In a somewhat cooling housing market (down a bit from the all-time high home values and sales of the past few years), Reed Pirain explains that Pittsburgh has remained competitive.

The average home cost is around $216,000, down under 1% compared to 2022. Homes are on the market in Pittsburgh for an average of around 70 days.

Those statistics mirror much of the changing housing market landscape in America for 2023. With median sale prices relatively steady and inventory still down, it’s becoming more and more of a buyer’s market — but not by much. 

What will the real estate market look like through the rest of 2023? Here are some of the trends to expect this year. 

Growing Inventory

Low inventory has characterized the U.S. real estate market for several years, reaching new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic when buyer demand shot through the roof.

That is set to change quite a bit. Since May 2022, there has been a slight upward trajectory for overall home inventory.

By late fall, there were record jumps in availability (as much as over 40% compared to the previous year), but there’s still a ways to go before inventory reaches the levels seen from 2017 to 2019.

New Favorite Locations 

“Location, location, location” is still an accurate real estate sales mantra. Where those favorite locations are, however, is changing.

A continuing trend is the shift of top-ranked markets to western and southern regions away from the long-popular coastal areas.

The top metro areas of the past few years include Nashville, Dallas, and Atlanta. Charlotte, Raleigh, and Phoenix fell a bit in popularity, but are still among the top 10. Other frequent large-city favorites like Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles have also dipped in popularity during the same time frame.

Reed Pirain

Digital House Hunting

Are open houses a thing of the past? Traditional ones — those actually in person — may be. The pandemic only accelerated a trend in real estate rising over the past five years — house hunting virtually.

Yes, numerous buyers are getting a jump on the competition by committing to homes before they even set foot inside.

Among the most popular property sale platforms are drone videos, virtual staging, and 3D tours. On top of that, many mortgages can be handled solely online, and house hunters are getting in touch with residents of neighborhoods that are interested via social platforms such as Nextdoor.

Home Prices Stay High

Rises in inventory have lowered home prices a bit in some areas, but the high average cost of homes is still enduring. High costs that became the norm in 2020 have stayed put and are expected to stay high for the next three to five years. 

The median home price was $350,000 in 2020, up 11% from 2019, and at the same time, the average home equity rose nearly 7%.

High costs do not seem to have deterred buyers in 2023 though, as sales rose by over 7% in January.

Simple Ways to Sell Your Home Fast

Reed Pirain

For the past few years, the best time to sell a home has been at any given time.

The U.S. real estate market has been steadily a seller’s market for so long, thanks to low inventory and high demand. This has also led to higher home values and higher list prices — and much more competition. 

Now that the market is facing more uncertainty, sellers are facing some difficulties, especially if they need to sell their homes quickly. However, Reed Pirain explains that just because there may be challenges doesn’t mean there aren’t effective ways to sell a home fast in 2023. 

Picking the Right Agent

A home’s location and condition are both key components of selling, but finding the best real estate agent is just as, if not more, essential to selling fast.

The right real estate agent can make or break a sale. They should know the area’s market backward and forward — with a record of sales to back that up. They should be available to help when needed and answer questions honestly and comprehensively.

Agents should listen to exactly what a seller is expecting. Great agents work tirelessly and take charge when it matters the most. They will do everything from hiring listing photographers to crafting an eye-catching property listing.

Since time is of the essence, they will also clearly determine the price that balances profit with a realistic and competitive price to get it sold quickly. 

Don’t DIY 

At first glance, putting a home up for sale by owner (FSBO) is a good path. In 2020, over 75% of homes listed by the owner sold within two weeks. However, before passing on a real estate agent, it’s important to know that the vast majority of those sales were to people the seller knew already.

There’s also the fact that for sale by owner homes often go for around $25,000 less than those sold through a real estate agent.

Reed Pirain

Selling at the Right Time

Sometimes, a home needs to be sold right away, even during traditionally slow real estate sales periods. But if the seller has more flexibility, there are clearly optimal times when a home is more likely to sell quickly.

Zillow notes that a home is more likely to sell (and for a higher price) if it’s listed on a Thursday anytime between March 11 through March 18, as well as the week beginning April 22. 

Make a Home Presentable

No one likes to see a cluttered home — especially those looking to buy. For buyers, it’s often difficult to picture themselves in cluttered homes that are packed with furniture or have an unclean smell.

Deep cleaning and decluttering can go a long way to securing a quick sale. This includes the usual cleaning approach — vacuuming, cleaning counters, straightening pictures on the wall — but the small details matter just as much.

Are mantels clean? Are magazine racks organized? Are the closets too crowded? Asking those questions matters too.

Another secret: Cleaning windows lets in as much natural light as possible. That’s a hard detail for potential buyers to ignore.

PA Real Estate Market is Still Hot in 2023

Reed Pirain

What a difference three years have made in Pennsylvania real estate.

The median cost of a home in the state is currently around $270,000, far below the national average, and in 2020 the median home price in the state was just about $200,000. In 2015? It was barely $165,000.

Reed Pirain explains that many factors have led to the thriving real estate market in Pennsylvania since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, its moderate home costs have consistently attracted homebuyers who are moving out of high-cost cities and states, spooked by inflation and the threat of recession.

And increasing interest rates on housing tends to benefit areas with moderately priced housing.

Pennsylvania still has a lot going for it, even as most experts expect 2023 to bring a real estate market cool down.   

The Knock Buyer-Seller Market Index released at the beginning of 2023 found that Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state’s capital, is the No. 2 best market for home sellers in the entire United States.

The Harrisburg-Carlisle metro area is expected to see a 7.5% rise in home prices compared to 2022 and nearly a 4% rise in home sales. 

And those are just a few of the positives driving the steady housing market in the Keystone State. 

Steel City Reborn

While the word “flourishing” hadn’t been used to describe Pittsburgh in decades, the city’s surprisingly robust housing market has changed that. 

While the majority of cities in the U.S., especially in the northeast, have seen both inventory and prices drop in recent months, inventory has increased in Pittsburgh and homes often sell quickly, averaging around 40 days throughout 2021 and 2022.

Pittsburgh is also bucking a significant national housing market trend. Experts project that the housing market in Pennsylvania’s second-largest city will improve even more in 2023, with home prices estimated to go up by 8.3% through the year.

Several accolades have contributed to Pittsburgh’s sudden attractiveness, including the affordability (particularly attractive for Millennials) and growth in locally available jobs.

Overall, Pittsburgh is frequently ranked in the top 15 cities with growing housing markets for 2023.

Reed Pirain

Other Popular Pennsylvania Real Estate Markets 

On the opposite end of the state from Pittsburgh, the York-Hanover metro area is frequently overlooked, but it continues to gain popularity for those working in Maryland who find that housing in that state often comes with sticker shock.

Just over the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, York-Hanover is projected to have a 9.6% increase in home prices and an 8.3% rise in home sales in 2023 compared to the previous year 

According to, the housing market will also be hot in other metro areas around the state in terms of home sales. Bethlehem tops the list, followed by Allentown, Erie, Adamstown, and Reading.  

Allentown is particularly impressive, with an estimated $205,000 median sales price in 2023, up 6.4% over 2022. The average home in the town spends just 10 days on the market before a sale.

Another great real estate market sign for Pennsylvania is that over 46% of homes end up selling over their listed price.

Pittsburgh Housing Trends and Predictions for 2023

Reed Pirain

Pittsburgh boasts an estimated population of 310,000, making it the second-largest city in the state of Pennsylvania. Still dubbed “The Steel City” due to its prominent history in steel production, the area contains no mills within its boundaries today. Instead, it’s been leading the charge in forward-thinking areas like high-tech medical devices, computer system design, and scientific research. 

Reed Pirain reports that the diverse economy in Pittsburgh, PA, makes it a good place for real estate investments over the next 12 months.

Pittsburgh Housing Market Statistics

Despite the considerable changes experienced by the real estate market in the city recently, it’s still set to bring investors the cash flow they seek. 

With an average home price of 38.77% below the national average ($210,191 instead of $343,292) and average monthly rent 10% above the national average, the area promises excellent returns for rental property investors. 

According to data, the median home value in the most popular investment neighborhoods is just $150,000, giving even higher returns to purchasers.

As for the RTV (rent-to-value ratio), it’s 0.63. That’s 9.89% above the country’s average of 0.57, ensuring the area boasts great potential for high cash flow.

Heading into 2023, the demand for rental housing in the city is still extremely high, with over half the location’s residents renting rather than owning a property. 

Housing to Remain Affordable Throughout This Year

Other metro cities across the United States of America are becoming increasingly less affordable, but Pittsburgh doesn’t fit that mold. Analysts predict that 2023 will see the area retain its affordability, even amid steady population growth.

Rehabilitation and new development efforts are thought to be driving this reliability, with Governor Tom Wolf announcing 12 new projects in the greater Pittsburgh region at the end of 2022. They’re set to optimize the area’s infrastructure and make substantial residential improvements.

Reed Pirain

Steady Home Appreciation Rates to Continue

From 2020 to last year, Pittsburgh’s median home values increased by over $50,000. Investors certainly benefited from the steady appreciation, and this advantage is set to continue throughout the next 12 months. 

During the period of tight inventory amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the median home price skyrocketed to $210,190 from $158,191, representing a 33% increase. But analysts note that the prices were already rising before the unprecedented times. 

Despite High Inflation, Local Leaders Stay Optimistic About Pittsburgh’s Housing Market

Most markets will likely experience contractions this year, but the Pittsburgh region is forecasted to grow by 4.2% in 2023 compared to the year before. That expectation ranks the city 12th among the 100 biggest metropolitan areas in the country. 

With that said, stakeholders are assessing the potential impact of rising interest and inflation on the location’s housing market. Although, local leaders are optimistic about its resilience to such pressures. 

Overall, the Outlook is Positive

Zillow’s spring 2023 list of the best first-time buyer markets displays the positive trends of Pittsburgh’s real estate situation. Favorable rent affordability, healthy inventory-to-buyer ratios, and a low share of listings are sure to stick around in the coming months. 

Trending Real Estate Developments for 2023

Reed Pirain

Real estate is in constant flux, and what’s trending in the industry for 2023 is no exception. From agents to buyers, professionals should all keep up with the latest in the world of real estate. But with so much information out there, it can be difficult to keep track of what trends really deserve your attention.

Reed Pirain will highlight below some of the most important real estate trends to watch out for in the new year. Whether you’re a seasoned real estate professional or just getting started, these developments are sure to have an important impact on business.

Growth of the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy has been gaining ground in recent years, and it’s likely that this trend will only keep growing this year. More people have started turning to short-term rentals for their housing needs, preferring the flexibility and affordability of these accommodations over traditional long-term rentals or home purchases.

As a result, real estate agents need to be prepared to work with new tenants and landlords who are entering the market through these channels. Additionally, more buyers and renters want to list their homes on platforms like Airbnb, so brushing up on the skills needed to effectively use these platforms should be a priority.

Increased Demand for Green Buildings

As concern over the environment continues to grow, we’re seeing more people seeking out properties that are built or renovated with green features in mind. This trend is likely to continue well into 2023 as both buyers and renters look for homes that promote sustainability.

As a real estate professional, this means keeping up to date on the latest green technology and techniques. Ensuring that as an agent, you can provide knowledge to clients about state and local regulations around green building is essential, especially considering that these regulations tend to change frequently.

Rise of Real Estate Artificial Intelligence

Real estate artificial intelligence is currently in its early stages, but it’s poised to make a big impact on the industry in the years to come. AI can be used for seemingly everything, from matching homeowners with ideal properties to helping agents manage their listings and clients more effectively.

With the various uses of AI in real estate, this is an exciting time in the industry. Understanding the various benefits of this technology will be essential as the industry continues to evolve.

Reed Pirain

Increased Interest in Co-living Spaces

Thanks to rising housing costs and a desire for more flexibility, agents are seeing an increasing number of people turning to co-living spaces. These are buildings or shared units that allow multiple tenants or homeowners to share a living space, often while also enjoying access to a variety of amenities.

As more people move into co-living spaces, real estate professionals will need to be prepared to help these tenants find the ideal units and manage any issues or concerns that may arise. Additionally, you may want to start including information about these types of properties in your listings so that you can attract those who are interested in this lifestyle.

Final Thoughts

The real estate trends for 2023 are likely to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole. By keeping an eye on these trends and staying up to date with new developments, agents will make themselves well-positioned to take advantage of all the potential opportunities they bring.

Unused Office Space to Become Housing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Reed Pirain

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a seismic shift to at-home working, several office blocks in Downtown Pittsburgh have been sitting vacant. However, Reed Pirain explains how that’s about to change, as city officials have come together with state- and county-level agencies to enact a $9 million residential conversion pilot program to bring a new breath of life to the area.

Initially announced in mid-2022, the program will see these otherwise-empty office buildings transform into residential units, but progress had started off slow. The Pittsburgh City Council approved a zoning change during the first week of December, which will now streamline the process.

The Unanimously Approved Legislation

The proposed residential project initially required review and approval from the Planning Commission, as it would cost at least $50,000. But the legislation was unanimously approved, meaning proceedings can move forward without it. 

On top of that, the zoning change also removed the pre-existing minimum lot size required per housing unit.

Fueling Residential Growth for an Improved, Healthier Neighborhood

Thanks to the new legislation, the empty offices can be converted into much-needed residential units far faster than what was previously imagined. 

Bruce Chan, the senior director of urban design at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said that these additional homes are necessary to improve the area’s opportunities for a more resilient neighborhood. The City Council wants to create vibrancy and activity within its streets, supporting a dynamic, beneficial retail environment for its residents. 

He told 90.5 WESA that Pittsburgh has always heavily relied on office space to produce tax dollars and business activity — more so than other cities. But the currently under-construction project will definitely change that. 

Reed Pirain

The Conversion Will Bring More Mixed-Income Housing to Downtown Pittsburgh

One of the major purposes of the conversion project is to bring more mixed-income residential units to Pittsburgh. Every government agency that has pledged the funding agrees that the area requires more housing inclusivity, further fueling the necessity to fast-track the project. 

As the name suggests, mixed-income developments are residential settings that provide affordable homes to individuals and families with various income levels. Typically, the designation is given to projects that boast dedicated affordable units and market-rate units in the same establishment. 

So, the converted offices situated in the Golden Triangle area will be viable for people from all walks of financial life, ultimately bringing more diversity to Downtown Pittsburgh and enhancing the city’s inclusive opportunities. 

Bringing New Life to Unused Offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The revitalization project will see the currently unused office blocks transformed into residential units. 

Once complete, there will be a selection of property sizes on offer, ranging from studios to three-bed apartments, allowing many families to find their perfect home. 

The units will boast that new-build feel, with modern appliances, brand-new carpeting, and well-appointed bathrooms. And, due to the government’s desire for more mixed-income housing, most people won’t be priced out of the market, allowing an opportunity to first-time buyers.