"I had to either refinance or sell the home or I'd lose it," he said.
Droge applied for help with American Homeowner Preservation (AHP), a private group that came to Akron 18 months ago offering to help whose mortgages were under water -- owing more than their homes were worth -- a chance to reduce their debt.
AHP's plan, which was called too risky by Summit County leaders and others, allowed the group to negotiate a buyout of underwater mortgages with a written commitment to sell the home back to home owner at a reduced rate within five years.
Droge owed nearly $200,000 on his home, valued at just $160,000.
After taking a risk with the AHP program, Droge's home recently closed on a short sale at $51,000. While it's now owned by a private investor, the home is under contract that allows Droge to buy it back within five years at a cost of $59-65,000, less than a third of what he once owed.
"It's been enormous," Droge said. "It's always been over my head, no matter what I do. We had a nearly $1,700 a month in payments and now the payments are $959 for that monthly lease until I can buy it back."
Across the country, AHP has been criticized as too risky and unpredictable, but Droge he trusted the process because a reputable, local Realtor was involved and because AHP guaranteed his re-purchase in writing.
Droge's goals now are clear.
"Purchase the house at a reasonable mortgage and have a reasonable budget and cash flow," he said.