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NAR housing summit – analyzing the five new recommendations

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October housing summit results

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  – Albert Einstein

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) never fails to disappoint. NAR had a Housing Summit for October with all the fanfare of the circus coming to town. Economists, business leaders, Congress-types, and industry professionals were to be in attendance. The recommendations were just released (and you can read them in full at the end of this article). While there should be no disagreement with much of it, the ideas are not exactly, unique. Reiterating the same issues ad nauseum, in the exact same fashion, on behalf of our members, via letters to The Fed, President, and to our elected officials simply look silly.

Answering calls to action

A lot of us have answered the numerous Calls to Action regarding the Mortgage Interest Deduction and extending, or reinstating higher conforming loan limits. Just about everyone agrees that Dodd-Frank itself was a total overreaction to, and QRM (Qualified Residential Mortgage) rules are a joke in and of themselves. We get it. Everyone else gets it, too.

Shilling for both S. 170 (Helping Responsible Homeowners Act) and tweaks to HARP are one ginormous push for mass re-fi’s. Under both of these proposals, loan-to-value probably would not be considered, appraisals possibly wouldn’t be needed.  Closing costs could be wrapped into loans, which could be as long as 40 year terms. Is any of this sounding familiar, because none of it worked so well the first time, did it? The debt for equity approach does sound intriguing. The old loan would be wiped out, replaced with a new loan (an appraisal would be done to determine current value) when the house is sold, hopefully when values are higher, the lender/servicer would share a percent of the profit, they get an “ownership position in the property when the new loan is re-written.”  Progressive Policy Institute explains it here, on pages 4-5.

Short sales and foreclosures

Short sales should take priority over foreclosures. There are 19 bazillion things wrong with this one little sentence. Foreclosure = the legal process to repossess the home while REO = the actual home itself. Short sales and REOs are very different beasts. There is already a mega glut of vacant crap houses, which are going no place thanks to the robo-signing mess, MERS, court back-logs, and improper foreclosures being done. Until even one of those items can be corrected, this housing crisis is still screwed. In regards to short sales, better training, education, and more experience, for agents, title companies, and those in loss mitigation would go a long way in improving those types of sales. Setting similar standards and guidelines for all servicers/lenders would certainly allow all parties to come to an agreement much quicker than they do now.

Investors need to be able to purchase more, with better financing options.  It would be great to allow the one or three person investment team to use the FHA 203(k) loans for rehabbing houses, and allowing investors to take out as many Government backed loans as they want, and can qualify for, when buying REOs, would be even better. Too bad the recommendation prior to this is basically saying that REOs should be put on the shelf.

Good idea: hybrid GSEs

Keeping at least some of the gov in GSEs (Government Sponsored Enterprises) is a really good idea. Otherwise it’s going to be QRM for all. We will have mega higher lending costs, and potentially doing away with loan options offered by VA and FHA.

Getting lenders to lend

When we wrote about the Housing Summit in September, we pointed out several things that had been attempted at correct housing thus far in the crisis. Once more, the current recommendations, The Five Point Plan, presented by NAR, is little more than a regurgitation of prior Calls to Actions, discussions, and lobbying efforts, which have been going on for years. It’s a total drag that NAR didn’t even mention job creation as any kind of a solution to the housing disaster.  Apparently it bears repeating: Without a job, without an income, no lender will… LEND. Not for a new loan, not for a refinance, and not for a loan mod. I get that housing our thing, but it is linked with every other sector of the economy. Until people can spend money on housing, until they can actually make a mortgage payment, it’s not going to get any better.

“Try, try, try to separate them
It’s an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion….

….You can’t have one, you can’t have none, you can’t have one without the other!
No Sir!”  – Frank Sinatra

NAR’s Five-Point Housing Solutions Plan:

Recommendation 1: Do Not Risk Weakening Our Nation’s Housing Markets Any Further

  • Recraft the Qualified Residential Mortgage rule mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act to include a wide variety of traditionally safe, well documented and properly underwritten products. Requiring a 20% down payment coupled with stringent debt-to-income ratios and rigid credit standards – as defined under the proposed rule by six federal regulators – would be detrimental to prospective home buyers, especially first-time and middle-income buyers.
  • Restore higher loan limits supported by FHA and the GSEs to provide liquidity in housing markets and to assure mortgage financing options while stabilizing local housing markets. On September 30, the loan limits in 669 counties and 42 states declined. Already, this has had a harmful impact on our fragile housing recovery. Sellers have had to lower their price in markets where mortgages backed by FHA and the GSEs are no longer available. Buyers are confronting higher mortgage rates and larger downpayments because only private mortgages are available in these high-cost markets. In some instances buyers have given up their home search entirely.
  • Resist proposals that call for changing the tax rules that apply to homeownership now or in the future. Without a doubt, now is not the time to change the mortgage interest deduction or any other housing incentives. Making gradual or targeted changes would send the wrong signal further undermining confidence and further depressing home values.

Recommendation 2: Restore Vitality to Our Communities and Neighborhoods by Reducing the Foreclosure Inventory

  • Support S.170, The Helping Responsible Homeowners Act, sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Their bill would remove refinancing limits on underwater properties for borrowers that have been paying on time, and would eliminate risk-based refinancing fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Support bipartisan Senate efforts calling for improvements to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Led by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the time is appropriate to enhance HARP and provide refinancing opportunities to at-risk borrowers as an alternative to defaulting on their mortgage loans.
  • Direct Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and servicers to prioritize short sales above foreclosures.
  • Support all necessary foreclosure/loss mitigation efforts to keep American families in their homes. Reology Corporation’s President and CEO, Richard Smith, has proposed a debt for equity approach to help underwater borrowers in trouble keep their homes and lower their monthly payments while lenders take a smaller hit than they would have with a default and foreclosure. We call on Congress to introduce legislation adopting this innovative proposal.

Recommendation 3: Open Opportunities for Private Capital to Return to the Mortgage Marketplace to Foster New Demand among Responsible Homebuyers

  • Open up the FHA Section 203(k) rehabilitation loan program to investors to encourage purchasing of foreclosed property. This will facilitate the rehabilitation of the existing housing stock and help reduce the inventory of foreclosed homes.
  • Require the GSEs to temporarily suspend investor financing limitations, especially the limit on the number of mortgage loans allowed for any one investor/borrower (currently 4 for Freddie Mac and 10 for Fannie Mae). This will give small, private investors the opportunity to absorb some of the excess inventory, resulting in the stabilization of prices for existing real estate-owned (REO) properties.

Recommendation 4: Support a Secondary Mortgage Market Model that Includes Some Level of Government Participation

  • Reject proposals that call for full privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is not an effective option because private firm’s business strategies will focus on optimizing their revenue/profit generation. This model would foster mortgage products that are more aligned with the businesses goals than in the best interest of the nation’s housing policy or the consumer.

Recommendation 5: We Call on the White House to Hold a National Housing Summit to Articulate a New National Housing Policy and Move the Provision of Housing to the Front of the Nation’s Domestic Agenda

  • Homeownership matters! It represents the single largest expenditure for most American families and the single largest source of wealth for most homeowners. The development of homeownership has a major impact on the national economy and the economic growth and health of regions and communities. Homeownership is inextricably linked to job access and healthy communities and the social behavior of the families who occupy it. We recognize the serious public debate as to which tax and spending policies will best support the sound fiscal management that our nation requires.
  • However, we urge caution against dismantling or eliminating vital resources for housing that provide important economic, social, and societal benefits. We call on the White House to empanel a body comprised of public and private industry participants to fashion a national housing policy that is flexible enough to address the varying needs across the nation, whether it’s homeownership or rental housing, production or preservation.

Katie Cosner, occasionally known as Kathleen, or KT, is a Realtor® with Cutler Real Estate and is active in her local Board of Realtors® on the Equal Opportunity & Professional Development Committee. She has been floating around online for a number of years, and is on facebook as well as twitter. While Katie has a few hardcore beliefs, three in the Real Estate World to live and die by are; education, ethics, and the law - insert random quote from “A Few Good Men” here. Katie is also an avid Cleveland Indians fan, which really explains quite a bit of her… quirks.

Opinion Editorials

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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Reuters checks facebook

So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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