Three years later, here they are, six months behind on their mortgage — part of a housing crisis that has devastated Nevada.
So they look to the presidential candidates for some kind of plan to set things right. And they don’t see one.
“I know Obama was left with a lot, but he sure hasn’t made it better,” said Amy, 63. “I voted for him last time. But I just can’t do Obama again.”
And while she and James, 66, plan to vote for Romney, they are not confident he will be able to help break the state’s economic fall. “I’ll give him a shot, but sometimes I wonder whether any of them is any good,” Amy said, as her husband nodded in agreement.
The retired couple is hardly unusual in Nevada. A catastrophic drop in prices has left nearly 70 percent of mortgage holders in this state owing more than their homes are worth, a loss they are unlikely to recover for decades.
For many of these hard-pressed homeowners, the nation’s slow-motion economic recovery has been mostly invisible, and when Election Day rolls around they are likely to vote their desperation.
The dire situation seems ripe for promises of change from the two presidential candidates working feverishly to win this critical swing state. Instead, the policies they espouse offer little to struggling Nevadans.
The pitches reflect the fundamental difference between the candidates: One wants the government to help. The other wants the market to work.
President Obama has rolled out programs that the administration says have touched thousands of homeowners in Nevada and more than 5 million nationally, but yet have failed to reverse the sharp decline in housing values.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said government should get out of the way and allow prices to collapse so the housing market can move more quickly to recovery.
“Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process,” Romney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this year. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes. Put renters in them. Fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”
Neither approach has much appeal to Nevadans desperate for financial relief.
“We found a house we wanted, and we would hate to lose it,” Amy said at a foreclosure prevention workshop run by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The sentiment echoed that of eight other struggling homeowners in the room.
Nevada is among a handful of battleground states where the fragile health of the economy — and who voters think can best heal it — is likely to determine the outcome of the fall election.
The stark difference in how the two candidates view the role of government in shaping the economy will be a critical factor as they tailor their messages to the swing states, each with distinct economic challenges.