Saturday, March 13, 2010 | 12:48 p.m.
With Las Vegas leading the nation in foreclosures, it is not only people who have lost their jobs who are in danger of losing their homes; just ask Peter and Jean Girard.
The Las Vegas couple was among more than 150 people who filed into the Centennial High School gym at the start of a housing workshop Saturday hosted by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.
The Girards haven’t gone into foreclosure and they are still current on their credit card payments and two mortgages. But they are suffering and worry about what is next.
After moving to Las Vegas in 2003 from Chicago to semi-retire, the couple saw the value of their house double in the boom years. So they bought and moved into a larger house and rented out the first.
Then things got tough; the values of both houses plummeted, Peter went back to working 60 hours a week and they had to use their retirement savings to get by.
“I don’t know how long we can chip away at our retirement -- not forever,” Peter Girard said.
They tried to get the bank to change the rate on their second mortgage, but since they are current on their payments, Girard said the bank gave them a worse offer than what they already had.
“When you get a ridiculous offer like that, you don’t even respond,” Girard said. “Since we’re not behind, they don’t want to talk to us. If you’re in foreclosure you can get help, but if you’re not, you don’t.”
So they came to the workshop to try to talk to credit and housing counselors and see what their options are.
Peter Girard acknowledged that many of the people at the workshops were probably in worse financial shape than he and his wife, but he is 69 and has health problems and wants to make sure things are in order so Jean, who is 62, is not stuck in a financial mess when he dies.
“We don’t regret coming here (to Las Vegas) at all,” he said. “We don’t have sour grapes about any of it, but we need some adjustments to our mortgage.”
Johnny Holmstrom, on the other hand, came to the workshop under threat of losing his house.
While waiting in line to talk to a representative from his lender, he seemed skeptical he was going to get much help in modifying his mortgage.
“At least I’ll get some information,” he said. “It’s not going to happen today.”
Holmstrom is a union plumber who lost his job when work finished at CityCenter.
“When you lose 60 percent of your income, it’s tough,” he said. “The kids got to eat. What are you going to do?”
He has stopped paying his mortgage and got a letter saying the bank intends to foreclose on his house.
Holmstrom paid $250,000 for the house a few years ago, but the house across the street just sold for $75,000, he said, leaving help from the bank or foreclosure as his only ways out of the situation, he said.
He said he hopes the bank will help, but he’s almost indifferent at this point.
“They can have it back if they want it, but I don’t think they want it, so they need to work with me,” he said while filling out a bank form.
“Am I in bankruptcy?” he read out loud, “Not yet, but it’s coming.”
In the meantime, going to the workshop bought him time, if nothing else.
“It keeps the wolves off your door,” he said. “As soon as you say you got the packet and are going to a seminar, they quit bugging you about your payment.”
Lois Hand was a little more optimistic after talking to someone from her lender.
“There’s some encouragement,” she said after being told the bank would contact her by Tuesday on what to do next.
Hand has just missed one payment on her house, but recently lost her job in accounts payable for a construction company.
“I just need a little help,” she said, hoping it would come from the lender. “They gave me a little hope, and a little bit really helps now.”