Q: My husband and I have lost our jobs. I am underwater in my Las Vegas condo. I’ve consulted a law firm. The fee is $2,600 that I don’t have. Can you direct me to the right person? As of yet, I am not late on my payments. But next month is a different story. As you can see, this is being sent (from) my iPhone. In a few days, that will be disconnected. Please contact soon. Thank you.
—Alona H., Las Vegas
A: First, I’m sincerely sorry to hear about your situation. I know it’s probably little comfort to you now, but you’re not alone.
Even though home values have been rising dramatically for more than a year now, and more homeowners are building equity in their homes, recent reports suggest that as many as half of all local homeowners are still underwater, owing more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.
Things are much better today than they were a few years ago. I don’t know all the details of your financial situation, but one option for many underwater homeowners is a short sale, where a lender agrees to sell a property for less than what the borrower owes on the mortgage.
As I pointed out in my last column, not everyone qualifies for a short sale. The same goes for a loan modification and other forms of assistance. I realize that many underwater homeowners, for a variety of reasons, may still be in danger of losing their home.
The good news is that there’s hope. Here in Nevada, distressed homeowners have more resources than ever before. And unlike law firms like the one you apparently contacted, these are free resources.
First, you might want to contact Home Again, the relatively new state-run homeowner relief program designed to serve as a single point of contact for homeowners in need. Visit www.homeagainnevada.gov or call 855-457-4638.
Home Again “makes it easier for homeowners in Nevada to determine what state or federal assistance may be available to them with a single one-stop free resource,” its website explains. “Home Again, initiated by the Office of the Nevada Attorney General, is a collaboration with counseling agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).”
The Home Again program is also designed for people hoping to restore their credit, people looking to buy a home, homeowners seeking a loan modification, and those facing foreclosure.
This program is a partnership between the Nevada Attorney General, Financial Guidance Center, Nevada Legal Services and Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Participating HUD-approved agencies in the program include: FGC, NLS, Housing for Nevada, Community Services of Nevada, Neighborhood Housing Services, Novadebt, Springboard and Chicanos Por La Causa.
While you can also call any of these HUD-approved counseling agencies directly, the Home Again program was designed to be a more efficient “single point of contact.” By contacting its call center, distressed homeowners can make an appointment with local counselors at these agencies. Homeowners can get help accessing federal or state housing programs, be referred to a legal services organization for assistance or get advice on submitting a written complaint to the Attorney General’s Office if they think they’ve been a victim of mortgage fraud.
As Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto points out on the Home Again website, homeowners should know that they don’t need to pay an attorney for this sort of initial advice and help and that they should watch out for scammers:
“Attorney General Masto warns all homeowners to be aware of mortgage-related scams. Do not provide personal information or pay money to anyone who calls or emails you claiming that they are providing mortgage-related assistance.”
Dave Tina is the 2013 president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, and has worked in the real estate industry for more than 35 years. GLVAR has more than 11,000 members. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.