LAS VEGAS -- Nevadans looking to save their homes often find themselves unable to reach a deal with banks on their own sometimes reach out to the state mediation program.
The program is capable of reducing a monthly mortgage payment by more than half. Homeowners tired of dealing with their lending banks, by phone or by mail, have one chance to meet face-to-face.
"We built this house from the ground up. We bought the property and we said the blessings," homeowners Majid Hamidi said.
His home of 14 years near Silverado Ranch was his American Dream until he lost his job as a casino employee. He immigrated from Iran decades ago, taking his mother's Persian rugs with him.
"This is out of silk as well. She worked on that for six months. I brought it from home," he said, as he proudly shows his mother's handiwork. Today, he cannot afford the $2,000 mortgage payment and has defaulted. Hamidi took the 30-day window he had to seek state mediation.
"Our program is very well-known around the country. It's known as mediation with a kick," state mediation director Verise Campbell said.
She directs Nevada's mediation program which is seen as a pioneer among more than 20 similar programs around the country.
"We require that the lender show up. We require that they participate in a certain fashion. We require that they present certain documentation," Campbell said.
"I've mediated 119 cases. The analogy I like to use best is -- imagine you're standing on a street corner and you're seeing an automobile accident about to happen and you're not allowed to holler, look out," mediator Marvin Longabaugh said.
He is a part-time mediator. He also represents clients going through the process. "One of the scariest things about being a mediator in the program is watching homeowners represent themselves and watching them make horrible mistakes, or make terrible deals and you couldn't stop it."
Hamidi got the help he needed. His payment was lowered to an affordable $700 a month. Not every mediation results in lower monthly payments. Other options include a forced short sale, forgiving the full debt in exchange for the home's deed or a cash payment from the banks to hand over the keys.
"The thought of losing it was painful. Trust me. The day we found out we were approved, we opened up two or three bottles of champagne," Hamidi said.
But for every successful mediation there are two more that are stalled in the courts. A table loaded with piles of papers tells the story. They are documents that weren't filed properly by banks causing the underwater homeowners to gasp for air.
Out of 12,000 Nevadans seeking mortgage mediation, only one-third get to stay in their homes.
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