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Moe Veissi does not mince words. And in today’s climate of overall consumer concern and market hesitation, his approach is not only refreshing…it’s exactly what’s needed. Stepping in as the 2012 President of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, Veissi boasts 40 years of real estate and association experience. Veissi brings a straightforward, down-to-earth approach to his presidency, and truly embodies the NAR motto: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Maria Patterson: What first attracted you to real estate and how have you succeeded over several decades?
Moe Veissi: Both of my parents passed away when I was relatively young. My father was a first-generation European who thought he could take care of everything on his own. He had no insurance and ran up a large hospital bill. I was only about 20 or 21 and was left with what I viewed as insurmountable bills. I had gone to college and had worked various jobs, but none that could generate enough income to pay off those hospital bills. I was at an event with a friend of mine who said to me, “You should get into real estate—it’s an easy way to make money.” I took the real estate exam and quickly recognized that it wasn’t a “get rich quick” career, but I learned that I enjoyed the negotiations and the ability to assist people in making this major decision.

MP: In your opinion, what are some of the most significant changes the real estate industry has endured over the years?
MV: In my opinion, we are going through some of the most significant changes the industry has probably ever seen. I’ve lived through the years of high interest rates in the 17% and 18% range, converting from assumable to non-assumable loans, the RTC and tax changes that shook the commercial side of our business, and I’ve seen recessionary periods before. But I’ve never seen a marketplace hit with a perfect storm of circumstances like this one has. With low job growth and the economic downturn, mortgage foreclosure rates at new highs and a myriad of other concerns, we’ve been incapable of effectively utilizing all the alternatives that would normally help us.

MP: What makes this recession different?
MV: We have gone through a period of time in which people made buying decisions predicated on everything that real estate is not. Real estate has always been a long-term investment, a portfolio builder, not a short-term flip and go. Now we have poor job growth, an unsteady economy worldwide and a very soggy real estate market—the one thing that normally pulls us out. I believe that if we can revitalize the real estate industry in all aspects, including construction, and preserve the benefits of real estate ownership, we will see ourselves move out of this malaise.

MP: How can we as an industry help spark more real estate activity?
MV: We need to allow the folks that are capable and qualified to secure a mortgage and repay that mortgage to buy real estate in this country. We’re not encouraging anyone to give a loan to an unqualified borrower—we’re talking about solid underwriting qualifiers, those who can qualify and are capable.

MP: What have savvy brokers and REALTORS® focused on in order to survive and succeed during the past few challenging years?
MV: REALTORS® have a tremendous ability to not just be compatible but also malleable in a lot of instances. REALTORS® have been very resourceful in their ability to not only identify other means to succeed, but to also forge relationships with lenders and asset managers so they can be involved in foreclosures and short sales, and in management of real estate.

MP: How have today’s real estate consumers changed?
MV: That’s yet to be determined. Right now, studies indicate that many would-be buyers are waiting for market conditions to improve, and some are being prevented from buying because of overly stringent credit restrictions. However, when you see that absorption of existing inventory and the competitive nature of the buyer start flowing, then we’ll be able to swing back philosophically and folks will once again see the real value of real estate as a long-term appreciation vehicle and a forced savings account and equity builder.

MP: What are your thoughts upon stepping into the role of NAR President?
MV: I think folks across the board have had three or four of the worst real estate years that anybody in our industry has ever experienced. I want to make sure that we continue to do the good things we’ve done and fight the good fight. I want to make sure we preserve the opportunity to buy real estate in a free, unencumbered fashion and reserve that opportunity for our children and grandchildren to do the same. I want to make sure folks in the industry feel they are a part of the cure.

MP: What issues/legislation will you focus most on during your tenure as NAR President?
MV: The MID (mortgage interest deduction) is at the top of the list. When you toy with that, you toy with the asset base of real estate itself. There’s an enormous need for us to make sure we preserve and enhance features like the National Flood Insurance Program, and sustain the GSEs and a healthy secondary financing market. This organization has fought the good fight and will continue to, not just for the members, but for consumers and the 70+ million people who own a home in America.

MP: Looking ahead, how do you think the market will fare in 2012?
MV: I think we’re in a stabilization period, so I expect absorption rates will continue to increase. When the consumer sees that inventory has diminished and they start competing for properties, I think we’ll see an increase in price appreciation and in real estate values. I think we’ll see a slow but steady increase in the buying public’s appetite for real estate in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2012. It won’t happen overnight, but I believe we will begin to see some real viable opportunities.

MP: What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your term as NAR President?
MV: I’m a small cog in a very big wheel. I want to make sure that the things I do over the next 12 months benefit our members and, ultimately, benefit the consumer.