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By Beth McGuire

RISMEDIA, Oct. 16, 2008-In an effort to address the foreclosure crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of families across the country, Realogy Franchise Group President and CEO, Alex Perriello, has issued a call to action to the more than 300,000 sales professionals affiliated with the company’s real estate brands to reach out families struggling against foreclosure.

Calling it the “Save the Dream” initiative, Perriello sent a letter to every broker and agent within the organization last week with a single goal defined: Find just one family in their local market facing foreclosure and help them reach out to their lender and hopefully negotiate a resolution.

“I read something in an MBA [Mortgage Bankers Association] article about a month ago that stunned me,” said Perriello. “It said 50% of home owners who lose their homes to foreclosure never once contacted their lender. I can’t imagine this; you’re sitting around the table with your family and telling them you can’t afford the mortgage and you’re losing your house and you’re not sure where you’re going to go-you’re to the point where you’re getting evicted-and you never once called your lender to try and save the situation? People may be embarrassed or scared, but they are in trouble and we should be the ones trying to help them.”

In his letter to brokers and agents, Perriello said he believes real estate professionals have an obligation to help families at risk of foreclosure: “I am asking each of you to help “Save the Dream” of homeownership for just one family facing foreclosure. I believe that we have both an opportunity and an obligation to help our neighbors and our local communities by trying to prevent as many foreclosures from occurring as possible.”

Perriello said the idea for Save the Dream came to him while speaking at a recent NAHREP (National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals) convention where the foreclosure issue has been of particular importance to Realtors working with the Hispanic community-a group hit hard by the subprime lending crisis.

“I was going through my prepared speech talking about the American Dream of homeownership, and everyone was responding really well, and then suddenly unplanned at the end, I shouted, ‘Save the Dream!’ Everyone applauded, and there was a great feeling in the room. I knew we were on to something and had to do something to help.”

Perriello said within 15 minutes of sending out the letter to members of his organization, his e-mail inbox was flooded with positive responses, like this one from Paul O’Breen, a real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Miller-Arnason in Bellingham, Wash.:

“Very cool concept, Alex. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I will definitely be on the lookout for someone to help. After all, isn’t this the reason we are in this business…to help people realize their dreams are a possibility.”

Tom Wilkins of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins and Associates in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, e-mailed:

“I want you to know how much I appreciate your thoughtful letter and think it’s a great idea. We will be executing on the initiative at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates for certain.”

Perriello said that homeowners facing foreclosure may feel intimidated or think the situation is hopeless, but moreover, he feels they don’t understand one crucial factor: that lenders don’t want houses back.

“If a homeowner would just pick up the phone and say to their lender, ‘This is what I can afford,’ they can see where it takes them.” Agents can help by being their moral support, he added. They can sit right at the kitchen table with the homeowner, pick up the phone and dial it for them and literally hand them the phone, coach them on what to say and let them know they’ll be right there to help them through the call.

He added that because of the severity of the foreclosure crisis today, lenders are inclined to be more flexible and willing to listen then they were just six months ago. If the homeowner explains that they want to stay in their home, they have a job and can make a payment, lenders will listen and possibly make a concession, within limits, he said.

“But not having that conversation at all is worse,” Perriello said. “And in a worse-case scenario, the agent may be able to help them through a short sale if that is another option for them.”

In his letter, Perriello offered two foreclosure educational websites that agents can give their clients:

Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

The HOPE NOW Alliance and the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline (1-888-995-HOPE)

According to RealtyTrac’s August foreclosure report, there are over 303,000 homes in foreclosure in the U.S. “If we can get each of our 300,000 real estate professionals to help just one family, we would be making a significant difference.”

As far as the future of the markets and the economy, Perriello said he’s seen forecasts “all over the board. It’s really hard to predict,” he added. “This is not something that will go away overnight. We got into this situation one house at a time, we need to get out of it one house at a time.”

Copy of Alex Perriello’s letter recently sent to all Realogy brokers and agents:

Dear Brokers and Sales Associates:

There are now hundreds of thousands of families all across America facing foreclosure because they simply cannot afford their mortgage payments, or they owe far more than their house is currently worth. To make matters even worse, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that approximately 50% of home owners who do lose their homes to foreclosure have never once contacted their lender.

With this stark reality in mind, I am writing to you today to initiate a system-wide Call-to-Action to the more than 300,000 brokers, managers and sales professionals who are affiliated with one of our franchise brands. I am asking each of you to help “Save the Dream” of home ownership for just one family facing foreclosure. I believe that we have both an opportunity and an obligation to help our neighbors and our local communities by trying to prevent as many foreclosures from occurring as possible.

This “Save the Dream” initiative may require several hours or even a few days of your time, but I am confident the end result will be well worth the effort, both personally and professionally.

Specifically, I am asking each of you to find just one family in your local community who may be facing foreclosure and help them reach out to their lender or a housing counseling agency so that they can begin the process of exploring a loan workout solution and hopefully stay in their homes.

If you don’t know of anyone in this unfortunate position, I’m confident that you can use your networking skills to find someone who needs this kind of help and approach them in confidence and with great sensitivity to the situation. Collectively, we can make a difference.

Here are direct links to two of the best resource sites available that you can use both to educate yourselves and to share with people in need of learning more about how they can help themselves avoid foreclosure:

Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
The HOPE NOW Alliance and the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline (1-888-995-HOPE)

One thing I have learned during my career as a real estate professional is that we REALTORS are very focused on community service. You spend time every year supporting a myriad of very worthwhile causes like Habitat for Humanity, Easter Seals, MDA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Toys for Tots and Make-A-Wish, to name just a few. You know firsthand that doing good deeds is indeed good business. More than that, I know you care deeply about your communities.

I truly believe that this “Save the Dream” initiative will enable you to give back to your communities in a positive and meaningful way – one that at some point in the future might have a direct benefit on your business. There is an old expression I’m sure you have heard many times … “What goes around, comes around.” I’m most certain, that if you can help save someone from the pain and anguish of foreclosure, they will be your friend – and customer – for life.

America got into this foreclosure crisis one house at a time, and we need to resolve it one house at a time. Please help “Save the Dream” for someone today. Thank you.

For more information about Realogy, visit http://www.realogy.com/.

Realogy’s brands and business units include Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, CENTURY 21®, Coldwell Banker®, Coldwell Banker Commercial®, The Corcoran Group®, ERA®, Sotheby’s International Realty®, NRT LLC, Cartus and Title Resource Group. Collectively, Realogy’s franchise systems have approximately 16,000 offices and 300,000 sales associates doing business in 92 countries around the world.

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