Beyond Sprawl: Watching The Bubble Burst Firsthand

A foreclosed home in suburban Phoenix.
Photo courtesy Jay Santiago/Flickr.
By Nick Blumberg
November 28, 2011

Beyond Sprawl-Rethinking The Southwest Economy

In this multimedia series, we investigate the region's housing sector and report on what growth could look like in the future.

Phoenix realtor Laura Oeinck.

PHOENIX -- Working in the real estate industry during 2008 and 2009, Laura Oeinck witnessed the housing bubble burst. She saw first hand how the recession affected neighborhoods and homeowners. Oeinck sat down earlier this month to share her story.

"I became a realtor in August of 2008; hardly an opportune time. But nobody seemed to realize exactly what was going to happen.

In January 2009, I also signed up with a company to visit homeowners who were seriously delinquent on their mortgages.

I was astounded to see abandoned houses on every street I traveled. It was as if a slow fire had started to destroy neighborhoods. It burned in a ring from the outskirts of Phoenix in toward the center. Neighborhoods of empty houses with grass and weeds as tall as a man, dead trees, broken windows, and piled up newspapers.

The most poignant moment of this period for me was when I visited a small family in a little three bedroom house. The house was their life’s dream. The father worked two jobs to try to keep up the house payment. The mother worked a part-time job while the kids were in school. The problem was their mortgage broker got them into a three year adjustable rate mortgage. I asked the woman why they signed a mortgage that might go up in three years. She said they didn't realize it was anything but a thirty year fixed. When the notice came that their payment was going up, the broker was long gone.

I started this journey with the view that people should be careful about reading the documents they sign, they should have the moral backbone to live up to the agreements they make even if it is difficult. I have since come to the conclusion that banks and corporations not only don't live by those rules, they hardly work within the rules of logic.

I am still a real estate agent. I love helping people find the perfect house. But I know first hand that the dreams of today are built on crushed dreams of the last few years."

We met Oeinck through the Public Insight Network. To learn more, or to tell your story, click here.