- By David M. Kinchen, Huntingtonnews.net Business and Real Estate Writer
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. Link to the Jan. 4, 2012 Fed report: http://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/other-reports/files/housing-white-paper-20120104.pdf
Both the NAHB and the NAR have long called for such an approach to help spur the housing market recovery.
“The Federal Reserve’s report to Congress confirms what we have been saying for some time: That extraordinarily tight credit conditions are preventing creditworthy borrowers from obtaining home loans and this is harming the housing market and the broader economy,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev.
Nielsen added that the lack of credit extends to housing construction loans as well, which is crippling the housing industry and preventing construction of new homes in markets that need and want them. “In scores of markets across the country that are exhibiting signs of job growth and where the inventory of new homes is nearly exhausted, builders should be hiring workers to break ground on new housing developments,” he said.
“…NAR knows that a strong housing market recovery is key to the nation’s future economic strength,” said NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami. “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 Fed report stated, in part:
“The ongoing problems in the U.S. housing market continue to impede the economic recovery. House prices have fallen an average of about 33 percent from their 2006 peak, resulting in about $7 trillion in household wealth losses and an associated ratcheting down of aggregate consumption. At the same time, an unprecedented number of households have lost, or are on the verge of losing, their homes. The extraordinary problems plaguing the housing market reflect in part the effect of weak demand due to high unemployment and heightened uncertainty. But the problems also reflect three key forces originating from within the housing market itself: a persistent excess supply of vacant homes on the market, many of which stem from foreclosures; a marked and potentially long-term downshift in the supply of mortgage credit; and the costs that an often unwieldy and inefficient foreclosure process imposes on homeowners, lenders, and communities.
“Looking forward, continued weakness in the housing market poses a significant barrier to a more vigorous economic recovery. Of course, some of the weakness is related to poor labor market conditions, which will take time to be resolved. At the same time, there is scope for policymakers to take action along three dimensions that could ease some of the pressures afflicting the housing market. In particular, policies could be considered that would help moderate the inflow of properties into the large inventory of unsold homes, remove some of the obstacles preventing creditworthy borrowers from accessing mortgage credit, and limit the number of homeowners who find themselves pushed into an inefficient and overburdened foreclosure pipeline. Some steps already being taken or proposed in these areas will be discussed below.
“Taking these issues in turn, the large inventory of foreclosed or surrendered properties is contributing to excess supply in the for-sale market, placing downward pressure on house prices and exacerbating the loss in aggregate housing wealth. At the same time, rental markets are strengthening in some areas of the country, reflecting in part a decline in the homeownership rate. Reducing some of the barriers to converting foreclosed properties to rental units will help redeploy the existing stock of houses in a more efficient way. Such conversions might also increase lenders’ eventual recoveries on foreclosed and surrendered properties.
“Obstacles limiting access to mortgage credit even among creditworthy borrowers contribute to weakness in housing demand, and barriers to refinancing blunt the transmission of monetary policy to the household sector. Further attention to easing some of these obstacles could contribute to the gradual recovery in housing markets and thus help speed the overall economic recovery.”
NAR’s Veissi said that, 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,” said 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,” said NAR’s Moe Veissi.
“Removing the obstacles limiting access to mortgage credit and enabling builders to obtain construction loans to build in markets where demand is firming is imperative to get housing back on track, to put our nation back to work and to keep the economy moving forward,” said NAHB’s Bob Nielsen.