While northern ZIP codes are still reeling from knocks to the housing industry, one native son is fighting back with a series of free community workshops.
Real estate agent Greg Smith has hosted two of a planned nine symposiums on short sales, foreclosures and mortgage insecurity. He gathered real estate experts, loan adjusters, attorneys and credit professionals for those whose homes are at the brink or deeply immersed in jeopardy.
"This is very grass roots," he said. "I want to give back to the community I grew up in."
Smith said misinformation and scams cloud an already stressful and confusion process. His workshops offer one-on-one solutions in a welcoming atmosphere, he said.
"Being a lifelong resident, I wanted to use my professional background to get a group together on the same stage in a Phil Donahue format," he said, "and have them speak to the current issues of being upside down on your mortgage and how to receive information and make decisions based on reliable information."
The workshops focus on the Home Affordable Modification Program, Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program and the Making Home Affordable program. Homeowners can receive free legal and credit advice as well as tips for short sales, negotiating and lending and titles. The three-hour workshops culminate in a question-and-answer town hall meeting.
The next symposium is planned for 6:30 p.m. May 22 at the Aliante Library, 2400 W. Deer Springs Way.
Smith hopes to host seven more symposiums through the end of the year.
The first two events were hosted in North Las Vegas, an area Smith wanted to target, he said.
"The North Las Vegas area in particular has the highest number of foreclosures and a lot of blighted communities," he said. "Homes are for sale, and communities - for those who are there and staying for a while - they're watching things crumble."
Smith also welcomes those whose homes are not at risk to see how their communities are being impacted by the crisis.
North Las Vegas resident Dale Olson attended Smith's first symposium to test the real estate waters and decide what to do with his second property.
"I have to decide whether to sell or let it go into foreclosure," he said. "It gave me ideas of what I could take whether I choose to hold onto it or refinance."
Olson has decided to wait to make a decision. Smith also has helped Olson explore purchasing a home while prices are low.
Olson said his neighborhood has weathered the economic storm, but adjacent ones have not.
"It's strange how different parts of North Las Vegas have been affected," he said. "Sometimes I drive through Aliante to score a good deal on a house, but now I don't want to buy anything because darn near every house has a foreclosure sign taped to the garage."
The taboo of foreclosure seems to be lessening by Smith's estimation. People are more willing to educate themselves and admit their housing weaknesses, he said.
"There was a gentleman who had been (approaching the situation) like the stages of death," Smith said. "He was in denial. He wanted a new home and couldn't accept he didn't qualify. We gave him options and said, 'Your credit is damaged, and you have to understand that.' "
The client worked through a strategic default with Smith and Smith's employer, Keller Williams Realty, and should be on his way to new home ownership after about a year, Smith said.
Other past participants resonated with Smith, who said he wants to be a beacon in their storm.
"I see the pain in these professional people - teachers, police officers, firefighters - these are hardworking people, and you see the stress in their faces," he said. "They're working with someone they can trust and who has enough empathy to get through the process the right way."
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Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.