Stabilizing and restoring the health of the housing market is critical to a broader economic recovery, according to a white paper released yesterday by the Federal Reserve Board. Many of the issues and recommendations outlined in the paper support key principles established by the National Association of REALTORS® to help revitalize the housing industry and economy.
The white paper, The U.S. Housing Market: Current Conditions and Policy Considerations, calls for increased lending to creditworthy home buyers and more loan modifications, mortgage refinancings, and short sales to reduce the rising inventory of foreclosed homes and help stabilize and revitalize the housing industry; an approach long recommended by NAR to help spur the housing market recovery.
“As the nation’s leading advocate for homeownership and housing issues, NAR knows that a strong housing market recovery is key to the nation’s future economic strength,” says NAR President Moe Veissi. “Improving access to affordable mortgage financing for qualified home buyers and investors and aggressively pursuing more loan modifications and short sales is necessary to help reenergize the housing market and spur an economic recovery.”
The pendulum on mortgage credit has swung too far following the housing downturn. According to the 2011 NAR Member Profile, 34 percent of REALTORS® reported that the most important factor in limiting their clients’ ability to buy a home was difficulty in obtaining a mortgage. While NAR supports responsible and strong underwriting standards, unnecessarily tight credit restrictions are keeping many qualified home buyers from purchasing homes, which could help absorb excess inventories of homes in foreclosure.
“Creditworthy consumers continue to have difficulties securing affordable financing despite their proven ability to afford the monthly payments,” says Veissi. “Expanding financing opportunities to qualified buyers could help reduce distressed property inventories, minimize the negative impact those homes have on local markets and restore vibrant housing markets and neighborhoods.”
To prevent further foreclosure inventory increases, NAR also urges lenders to take more aggressive steps to modify loans and keep struggling families in their homes. Significantly reducing monthly mortgage payments will help more families remain current on their mortgage and allow them to remain in their home, reducing the impact of foreclosures on local home prices.
For homeowners who are unable to meet their mortgage obligations, NAR has urged lenders and servicers to quickly approve reasonable short sale offers so these people can avoid foreclosure. The short sale process can be time-consuming and inefficient, and many would-be buyers end up walking away from the transaction.
“Loan modifications and short sales help stabilize home values and neighborhoods, and limit the losses incurred by lenders, the federal government and taxpayers, which is good for everyone,” says Veissi.
The Fed paper also addresses converting foreclosed properties into affordable rentals. NAR supports reducing the barriers that prevent owner-occupants and small investors from accessing financing, such as opening the Federal Housing Administration 203(k) program to investors. NAR also believes these efforts are best made by local entities that understand the challenges of the local community and will respond to renters’ needs.
In addition, NAR is concerned about proposed bulk sales of distressed properties and believes that every effort should be made increase liquidity for consumers and small investors since bulk sales will likely result in greater losses for taxpayers and have a more negative impact on housing values.
For more information, visit www.realtor.org.