And there they waited, with millions of other Americans, as the value of their home never seemed to be able to surpass the amount of their loan.
Seven million Americans are currently underwater. It's thought one out of every five mortgage holders remain on the bad end of the financial equation. It all makes the events of this week for Chris Dickey all the more potentially refreshing.
On Tuesday, he will close on his Parker home. The following day he and his family will move a few blocks away into the bigger home they dreamed of for so long. His old home, the home once underwater, is underwater no more.
"The values have come up to where he could move. He needed to move. He needed the space, and the marketplace finally was able to support that," RE/MAX realtor Jace Glick said.
"For four years it felt like all I did as a real estate broker was sitting at people's kitchen tables and telling them, 'I'm sorry, you can't afford to sell right now. You need to wait,'"
Glick added. He said he's now telling more and more people that they no longer need to wait.
Between December of 2011 and December of 2012, the average price of a single-family home in the metro area rose by 8 percent, according to Metrolist.
By all appearances, many more people than just Chris Dickey have been waiting for the market to get going again on the price side. Inventories remain near historic lows.
"Our inventory is incredibly low, probably the lowest I've seen it in the past ten years," Glick said.
There are a multitude of reasons for that, but Glick says the hesitancy to get involved in the market while still underwater has caused many to stay put in an effort to wait it out.