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“Harvard research among elderly homeowners who have paid off their mortgages shows they have lower housing costs than renters. Housing equity provides a cushion for retired folks,” said Yun.

Housing starts are forecast to hit one million this year and reach 1.3 million in 2015, which is still below the underlying demand of about 1.5 million, but should gradually normalize as lenders open their credit box more to builders. New-home sales are likely to total 440,000 in 2014, and increase to 620,000 next year.

According to Watt, the industry has a “recovering, but not yet recovered access to homeownership and demand for homeownership.” On the access side, Watt says the conversation must start with the availability of credit. There’s widespread concern because the credit market swung from reckless lending of the past to the opposite extreme. Only borrowers with pristine credit can get a mortgage.

“We need to find a way back to responsible lending to credit worthy borrowers across all market segments,” said Watt.

Reforms will continue to restrict abusive lending practices that characterized the subprime boom, says Watt. The FHFA is working to have the enterprises place increased attention and recourses on conducting quality control, reviews, and providing lenders access to detect problems with mortgage purchases early on before the loan is purchased by the enterprises.

“As the recovery continues, we all have a shared responsibility to ensure your customers have access to affordable housing and that the mortgage process allows them the ability to pursue and afford the American Dream, and to ensure that it is sustainable,” said Watt. “Now is a great time for REALTORS® to be actively encouraging customers who can afford to become homeowners to do exactly that.”

For more event coverage from the 2014 REALTORS® Conference & Expo, visit www.rismedia.com.

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