Buying a home is a major responsibility. If you are well into your mortgage and discovering that you can no longer afford payments, though, it can seem like little more than a burden. Countless Americans make payments on their mortgage every month, but it is one of the biggest debts—if not the biggest—that most people have, and there is a reason why so many end up going into foreclosure.

According to NeighborWorks America, in fact, one out of every 200 homes in America will eventually be foreclosed. When it comes to debt relief, you may consider bankruptcy, but perhaps you are concerned about the equity—or lack thereof—that is contained in the value of your home. 

You own your equity

Generally, a homeowner is entitled to her or his equity, regardless of whether she or he is in foreclosure or has defaulted on payments. These factors can quickly diminish your equity, though, until there is little left. Lenders typically charge fees for late and defaulted payments, and this amount may be subtracted from any profit that would be gained from equity. This is one reason to proceed with debt relief as soon as you can. 

You can address negative equity

Under some circumstances, your home might be worth less than the balance you owe on your mortgage. This is referred to as negative equity, and it is a common reason for defaulting on payments. Debt relief options such as bankruptcy, though, allow you to reorganize or discharge debts so that you are not stuck making payments on a home that is worth dramatically less than it was when you bought it.

You may not have to sell

Some homeowners fear that they will be forced to sell their home when they are in foreclosure. You might also believe that bankruptcy will force you to liquidate it. Neither of these is true, though, and bankruptcy might allow you to keep your home and reorganize the debt so that it is manageable and your equity can be saved.