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How Can Renters Solve the Housing Crisis?

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By Greg Rand

Residential real estate is not rocket science. We know that this housing crisis is:
1. Explainable – bad lending, mad speculation, wild expectations, government meddling
2. Isolated – bad mortgages, negative equity, strategic default, government meddling
3. Temporary – demand for housing always catches up to supply eventually

Anyone with any experience and perspective will agree that this market will recover over the next 10 years, but what will this particular recovery look like? Since the root of the problem was unprecedented, the solution might be as well.

My belief is that renters are going to solve the housing crisis.

Homeownership rates have fallen by a few percentage points, which has translated into more than four million new rental households in just the past few years. According to the Census, 1.4 million of those were added between July 2010 and June 2011, showing that this trend is accelerating.

As a result, rental rates are growing at more than 5% per year, and this trend is also accelerating.

As a result of this, investors are pouring capital into American housing with a long-term mindset, kicking this trend into hyperspeed.

This crisis will not be solved by enticing home buyers. Their confidence is waiting for unemployment to come down and government to act responsibly, which could take a while.

But investors are confident right now. Why? Because they see the big picture. Rental demand equals stable cash flow. So what can be done to encourage them?

How about eliminating archaic waiting periods for investors who want to buy foreclosures? How about eliminating waiting periods for investors who paid cash and want to tap it with a refinance? Today they have to wait months to put that money back to work. Why not eliminate the overall bias against investors in FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and require big down payments to make it safe to lend, and lend.

Better yet, keep your eyes peeled for a private sector player to seize this opportunity to create America’s first national investor mortgage brand. The estimates are that half a million investor loans close every year, and who owns that niche? No one.

The Martial Arts teach you how to use the weight and momentum of your opponent against them (or so they say in the movies). This is the same thing. This drastic increase in rental demand is a by-product of the foreclosure crisis. Use it against the crisis by turning it into positive cash flow investments for those willing to be confident and take a risk in this environment.

Burn off that shadow inventory and create housing options for newly minted renters, which will, in turn, stabilize rental rates, and everybody wins. Good credit renters and buy-hold investors will be the heroes at the end of this saga.

Greg Rand is CEO of OwnAmerica.com and former managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty.

For more information, please visit www.ownamerica.com.

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