For some time, Obama has been pressured to name a permanent leader for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) as the countdown for reform ticks down. The choice for FHFA Director comes with heavy implications as whoever takes the role will be a major player in the future of the housing sector.
The FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which together hold over 50% of all American mortgages. The Treasury Department has provided $151 billion in aid to Fannie and Freddie and since Uncle Sam took over the two finance giants in 2008 under the leadership of Edward DeMarco, it has been through the ringer with opinions on the way forward varying from Barney Frank’s proposal to completely dissolve Fannie and Freddie to others’ proposals to streamline the system.
The FHFA is set to present a plan to overhaul the US mortgage-finance system in January 2011. The clock is ticking.
Obama’s nominee, Joseph A. Smith, Jr.
In steps Obama’s current nominee for FHFA Director, Joseph A. Smith, Jr. who is the current North Carolina Banking Commissioner. With his University of Virginia law degree, Smith has spent his career as a banking lawyer until 2002 when he became the Banking Commissioner, overseeing mortgage firms, banks and consumer lenders in North Carolina. Smith is praised by banks and consumers for pioneering a foreclosure-prevention program.
“Smith brings to this position both tremendous expertise and a deep commitment to strengthening our housing finance system for the American people,” Obama said in a statement this week. “I’m grateful that he has accepted this nomination, and I look forward to working with him in the months and years to come.”
North Carolina is well known for being consumer-centric regarding lending and despite his deep roots in the banking industry, Smith is heralded as a consumer advocate. In his own words to the Senate Banking Committee in 2007, “We must find a balance between encouraging market innovation, product choice and credit availability with consumer protection.”
Will this nomination help or hurt the real estate sector?
Will an Uncle Sam overhaul of Fannie and Freddie with the consumer in mind give some relief to a still flailing real estate sector, will it keep the market stagnant, or will a non-iron fist cause a decline? We believe that Obama’s nomination spells improvement for the sector as politicians have scrambled to get their local interests served under weak leadership, but a consumer advocate like Smith is likely not adverse to criticism by politicians. Regardless of politics, this appears to be a solid, sound nominee which could be exactly what our mortgage finance system needs.
Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home
When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?
Looking at the bigger picture
(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).
That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).
They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.
“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”
Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?
With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.
The average home age is higher than ever
(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.
With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.
Prices of new homes on the rise
Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.
Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?
The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.
Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes
(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.
Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.
So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.
1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues
It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.
Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.
2. Two major media brands emerge
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