Nevada leads the nation in foreclosures. In Las Vegas, banks are repossessing record numbers of homes. But the flip side is that for some low-income buyers, home ownership is finally within reach.
Lady Luck has smiled on David Krueger, a waiter at the glitzy Mirage Hotel, who earns $13 an hour, plus tips. That's about $30,000 a year. His partner makes less.
Krueger recently bought a three bedroom house for $115,000. From some of the windows, he can look west and see mountains. His 15-year-old is a big reason Krueger bought the home.
"It shows him that working hard will pay off and you can have something nice," he says.
Nearby, many of the houses stand empty. But windows aren't boarded up, and the neighborhood seems more low-key than deserted. The empty homes didn't keep Krueger away, because to him, owning is better than renting.
"I work hard for a living, and I want my payment to go to something that's going to belong to me, and not belong to somebody else," he says.
Down Payment Help
Despite his salary, Krueger was able to get a loan because he has good credit. He also qualified for a federal program that helps low-income home buyers. The purchase is especially sweet because Krueger himself knows the pain of foreclosure. In 2006, his partner bought the family a home, using a risky, adjustable-rate loan.
"Our payments went up, almost double, and we had paid nothing on our home," he says. "We didn't understand the rates and what was going on."
The payments overwhelmed them; eventually, the bank foreclosed. But Krueger's credit was clean. This time, he turned to a nonprofit called Nevada Partners, which helps members of the big Vegas hotel union buy homes. It gave Krueger $4,000 toward his down payment.
"It is a loan. But there's no interest on it, and there's no monthly payments on that loan," says Julio Jimenez, who runs the loan program.
The program has helped almost 400 families since it began two years ago — that's a lot of waiters and maids who would still be renting. Some families have received as much as $20,000. Jimenez says they don't have to pay back the loan until they sell or refinance.
"The union decided to start putting this program together when the housing boom was still pretty high," Jimenez said. "They wanted to help workers to achieve home ownership because it was difficult to get low-to-moderate income families into a home."
Prices are so low these days that some workers are able to buy homes even without outside help — homes they never could have afforded a few years ago without a dodgy loan.
Lorena Resendiz, a waitress and single mother, recently made a down payment on a $115,000 in a gated community north of town.
"I saved my money for a long time," she says.
She and her 8-year-old daughter just moved into the three bedroom house.
"It made me feel more stronger, happy, more secure," she says. "So I feel so good."
And lucky. During the real estate bubble, Resendiz almost bought a $250,000 home, but she got cold feet and backed out the night before signing the papers. After that she gave up hope of ever owning her own home, but then found this one. It was half what she would have paid during the bubble. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.