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Sessions aim to help prevent foreclosures

Nevada led the nation in foreclosures for the 17th consecutive month in May, according to RealtyTrac, but local leaders say they can help some homeowners dig their way out of financial quicksand and sometimes save their homes.

A group led by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will hold its third foreclosure prevention counseling program for homeowners today and Saturday at Cashman Center.

The counseling sessions can help homeowners determine if they can avoid foreclosure and, if not, explain how homeowners can reduce the financial pain.

“This resource center cannot solve everybody’s problem,” Reid said. “But it will provide useful information.”

About 1.8 million Americans are being foreclosed, Reid said in a press conference Thursday.

“Sadly, a lot of them are in Nevada,” he said.

Statewide, one in every 118 households received a foreclosure notice last month, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac reported Thursday.

In Clark County, the hardest-hit area of the Silver State, one out of every 96 homeowners received foreclosure notices in May. That’s a 66 percent increase from May of last year and 21 percent more than in April, RealtyTrac reported.

Foreclosure notices were filed on 7,880 houses in Clark County in May, including 4,286 notices of default, RealtyTrac reported.

While Nevada leads in home foreclosure, “we also carry the highest consumer debt load of any city in the nation, and that drives bankruptcy, where we’re number one,” Michele Johnson, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Yet, foreclosure isn’t always inevitable.

Teams of 20 lenders at the counseling sessions “are really geared to help people stay in their home,” said Kirk Clausen, regional president of Wells Fargo Bank.

Home lenders sometimes will refinance homes at lower rates, consolidate loans or freeze rates, Clausen said. He urged homeowners to contact counselors at Cashman Center or their lender as soon as they encounter financial problems, because foreclosure may be unavoidable if they wait too long.

Other advisers will help homeowners deal with the repercussions if they cannot keep their homes, Johnson said. She mentioned short sales where lenders allow an owner to sell the home for less than the amount owed, and deeds in lieu of foreclosure where the borrower turns over the house without foreclosure.

The counseling service outlines strategies homeowners can use to prepare for rental housing and reduce foreclosure-related expenses.

The free counseling is being provided by the Foreclosure Prevention Resource Center and sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The program will be conducted in the first-floor conference room at Cashman Center, 850 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

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