Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Woman's Fight to Save the American Dream

The dream of homeownership resonates all over the world from the smallest villages to the largest cities. It is a dream that we seek because it tells us that we have finally arrived, we are home. We have a place to plant our roots, raise our children and hang the pictures on our walls in the hope that we can leave a legacy for our children and their children. It is a fact that families who are homeowners have children who are more likely to go to college, commit less crime and grow up healthier and happy. Home is truly where the heart is; but for millions of American Families the dream is turning into a nightmare.

It was not until the current mortgage meltdown that the world realized the greed and corruption that was woven into the very fabric of the mortgage industry, but for Shirin that realization came over 6 years ago when she entered the mortgage industry. While researching the future of the industry she had just entered, she discovered Predatory Lending, also known as unfair lending practices, and what it was costing hard working Americans. Over 9 billion dollars in hard earned equity was reported to be lost each year due to predatory lending practices. Many families are victims today and still do not realize they are paying too much on their mortgage.

Released White House statistics showed that over 50% of American Families were paying a higher interest rate on their mortgage, than they qualified for, losing thousands of dollars each year in equity. HMDA stats showed the average African American and Hispanic family, with good credit scores received a 2-3% higher interest rate on their mortgage than a Caucasian buyer with the same credit. The United States Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (or HMDA, pronounced HUM-duh) was passed in 1975. It requires financial institutions to maintain and annually disclose data about home purchases, home purchase pre-approvals, home improvement, and refinance applications involving 1 to 4 unit and multifamily dwellings. On a $300,000 loan, a family who pays 2% more would lose $700 per month and over pay by $300,000 in interest over 30 years. This must stop!

"I knew that consumers were being set up to fail, when banks offered incentives to brokers to put consumers into negative amortization loans and adjustable mortgages. The more of a prepayment penalty was added onto a loan, the higher the rate or the margin, the more money loan officers and brokers made. Such mortgages were so attractive to lenders because they were attractive to their investors who purchased loans based on future earnings. This means if a consumer enters into a 2 year 7% mortgage, the investor hoped in two years the rate would go up and bring in more money. Little did the investors know that the lenders in the United States were putting people into loans they could not afford, making what investors thought to be solid investments in mortgage back securities nothing but toxic assets."

Shirin began the journey to save the dream by launching Fair Community Lending Services Inc, in 2003 with her best friend Lynn Davis. FCLS, Inc. is a company that connects consumers with fair brokers and lenders who followed strict guidelines in order to protect consumers. She began to reach out to media, organizations, non profits and faith based groups in order to reach the public, and arm them with the education to make wise choices when buying a home or other Real Estate. If she spoke to one or to millions, she would be there to educate them about their credit, the types of loan programs available, budgeting, understanding the buying process and tips on identifying predatory lending loans that are offered to them.

A major part of Shirin's ability to reach millions over the past 6 years has been minority broadcasters, who supported Shirin's message and put her on the air on a regular basis. Josefa Salinas has been a major part of that education. She teamed up with Shirin within the first month of her launch in 2003 and began to utilize her airwaves, on Hot 92 Jamz in Los Angeles, to help families save their homes. "From the very first show, the phone lines didn't stop ringing", comments Josefa Salinas. "My listeners realized they were victims of predatory lending and so did I."

"I, too, was overwhelmed when I did my first show," comments Shirin. "Victims of predatory lending were calling and emailing me in record numbers for help. Many were about to sign their paperwork with a predatory lender or broker, and realized that they were victims after hearing the show. I was making a difference by reaching people and I started to save homes. I cannot imagine not doing what I do today," continues Shirin Sharkawi, who stays up answering emails into the late hours of the night, from struggling homeowners, emailing her on her community website at "I get emails with headings like 'HELP ME' all the time. Americans are struggling so badly and we must do something about this.

On July 4, 2009, American Independence Day, Shirin Sharkawi took the next step in her journey with the release of her new book, Save The America Dream: How to Modify Your Mortgage and Rebuild Your Credit. The "how to" manual can be purchased as either an E-book or a Workbook and walks families through the step-by-step process of a loan modification. The book is simple to understand, and will teach consumers at any stage of their loan modification or foreclosure process what they need to know to have the best chance at either saving their home or avoiding foreclosure with other alternatives such short sales or deid in lieu of foreclosure. The book also takes things a step further, by helping consumers learn how to rebuild their credit after setbacks, and what it takes to buy a home after foreclosure and bankruptcy. "Credit is the key to wealth building, comments Shirin, and without solid credit, families will always pay more for cars, homes, credit cards and be locked out of building wealth."

Consumers are often not getting loan modifications because they don't know how to prepare, and they get caught off guard when interviewed by the bank. There are key numbers the bank wants to see and there are hardships they will accept. The other major and key issue we are facing is that the same predators who put consumers in such situations in the first place, are now opening up Loan Modification Companies and scamming already hurting families out of their money and at times their homes. "There is no way Americans can continue to take such hits without any regulations or there will be nothing left," comments Shirin.

As many families struggle to save their homes, some families struggle to put food on the table; that is why $2.00 from each book will go to food banks across the United States and towards transitional houses for displaced families.

The American Dream is worth saving and regardless of our color, age or race, "home is where the heart is" and the dream to attain one is something we can all relate to.

It is Shirin's goal and mission that Americans will come together through this difficult time to help each other find solutions and resources. If this financial crisis has taught us all something is that our neighbor's success does affect our own and we are not only connected individually but globally as well.

Other Contributors to the book are Warren Ballentine, Attorney and nationally syndicated talk show host, Andrew Kish, certified credit counselor and mortgage broker; Jamie Blake Hill, First Time Homebuyers.

Order your book today at and help save the American dream of homeownership.

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