From The Huntsville, AL Times – Crye-Leike Aims To Save Dreams

Friday, November 21, 2008

 

By GINA HANNAH

Times Business Writer gina.hannah@htimes.com

 

 

Crye-Leike Realtors, which has an office in Madison, is working to help homeowners keep their homes during tough economic times.

 

The Memphis-based agency last week launched a companywide campaign, asking its agents to each help one homeowner who is facing foreclosure.

 

“Foreclosure is such a hot topic these days,” said Rob Hatchett, regional vice president for Crye-Leike. Hatchett oversees Huntsville, Chattanooga and Atlanta. “We’ll identify homeowners (near foreclosure) and take them through the steps to avoid it. We can’t call the lender for them, but we can take their hand and say ‘here’s what to do.’ ”

 

In a letter released last week, Harold Crye and Dick Leike, the agency’s owners, encouraged agents to participate in the “Save the Dream” campaign by finding people in their communities who are nearing foreclosure, and helping them avoid it.

 

“We believe we have both an opportunity and an obligation to help our neighbors and our communities by trying to prevent as many foreclosures from occurring as possible,” the letter states.

 

Memphis-based Crye-Leike has offices throughout the Southeast. The agency has an office in Madison, on Madison Boulevard, with 19 licensed agents, and plans to break ground on a new building on Hughes Road soon, Hatchett said. The company is slated to open an office in Huntsville in January on South Memorial Parkway and recently purchased Farm and Home Real Estate in Fayetteville, Tenn., which it plans to convert into a Crye-Leike office during the next few weeks.

 

The firm closed on 30,000 homes last year, generating $5.6 billion in sales.

 

“If we get all of our 4,000 agents to help one family, that will be 4,000 families that don’t lose their home,” Hatchett said. “Banks don’t want to foreclose. I think a lot of people are just giving up on their homes, and they don’t have to.”

 

In October, Madison County had 97 homes in the foreclosure process, an increase of more than 200 percent from the previous year.

 

Agents will seek homeowners to help by sending letters to friends and family members, asking for referrals. Hatchett said that approach is more private, less intimidating than holding seminars on foreclosure.

 

Sometimes avoiding foreclosure is as simple as a phone call; the letter to agents notes that some 50 percent of homeowners who lose their homes to foreclosure never contacted their lender. Sometimes a counseling agency can help the homeowner get a lower interest rate or refinance their home.

 

In addition to that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from helping others, homeowners avoiding foreclosure is good business, Hatchett said. The presence of bank foreclosures in a neighborhood can drag down prices of surrounding homes for sale.

 

“America got into this foreclosure crisis one house at a time,” Crye and Leike say in their letter. “We need to resolve it one house at a time.”