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Ron Nash
City: Carlsbad, Calif.
Price paid: $840,000
Current value: $600,000
Lesson: "Nothing was lost but a big, freaking headache."

This California resident bought his house nine years ago in a gated community within the posh, seaside city of Carlsbad. He took out an adjustable rate mortgage to keep the initial monthly payments affordable, but by this spring his monthly mortgage bill was $5,600.

At the same time, he found himself severely underwater thanks to falling home prices and several cash-out refinances.

The headhunter and motivational speaker couldn't afford that big a payment and realized he wasn't likely to make back nearly a quarter-million dollars in value. He tried for months to work something out with his lender, but he says, "They made me an offer that was unacceptable."

Instead, Nash, who is married with two kids, decided to go through the foreclosure process. He didn't pay the mortgage for 18 months and finally vacated in June. Not having a housing payment during that time kept him from financial ruin since his headhunting business was in a tailspin.

Nash and his family are now living in a $1,900-a-month rented townhouse in the same great neighborhood just a half mile away from their former home. "I downsized about 1,000 square feet to a 1,500-square-foot home," he says. "Hey! It's a lot easier to clean."

He feels like he landed on his feet in just about every way: His kids were able to stay in the same school; he stayed in the same location, which is like living in a beach resort; and he's spending a lot less on housing. "Nothing was lost but a big, freaking headache," he says.

Still, he counts himself lucky that he was able to find the new place. Most large-scale commercial property complexes wouldn't rent to him because his credit was so tattered, but he found a woman who had just lost her job and needed to leave her townhouse on short notice. He had just received a big check for a head-hunting transaction he had just closed so he got the place.

His advice for others: "Make sure you take care of your family. And don't get attached to mere things."

NEXT: Marlene McGuire

Last updated September 16 2009: 12:46 PM ET
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