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Real Estate Associations

Fresh NAR report reveals the housing and lifestyle trends of COVID-19

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) This latest NAR report on housing and lifestyle shows some interesting trends based on COVID-19 and overall cultural changes.

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Open housing with large kitchen and backyard more desirable.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) – the nation’s largest trade association – typically conducts a report called the Community and Transportation Preference Survey on migration and lifestyle trends every two years to inform the realty and transportation trends of the current moment. Due to the unprecedented cultural shifts as a result of COVID-19, NAR has decided to conduct two reports this year; one pre-pandemic last February, and one in July. Here’s some of their most interesting findings about housing wants:

  • What’s the group most affected by the pandemic? Young people – specifically young people with children. As a young person without children, my heart goes out to all of you raising the next generation right now.
  • People under 40 are the most likely to say that their life has been negatively impacted during this time. Perhaps that’s because people over 40 tend to be more settled in their lifestyles, have steady careers and have already bought their homes. Young people just aren’t set up for pandemics the way older people are. *sigh*
  • Overall, people in the survey noted a reduced need to live near highways, their place of employment, or public transportation. Because, where would you be going anyways? And why in such a hurry?
  • The desire to be near public transportation is down 8% from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Similarly, the desire to be near the highway is down 5%. I’m guessing this is because getting in your car and going on the highway is less of a risk than taking public transportation.
  • There is substantial demand for walkability across the board. You truly can pace around your apartment too much, and the masses are craving a change of scenery and some fresh air.
  • Those who are 55+ and higher income folks also report an increased desire for walkability.
  • That being said, those who live in areas where there are a lot of places to walk nearby reported an 8% better quality of life.
  • Families with children in school reported an increased desire for detached houses (no thank you, cramped apartment buildings!) and BIG yards. This is especially interesting, as back in pre-pandemic February, it was a smaller yard with a walkable neighborhood that was these same families found more desirable.

Some of these findings seem obvious – of course everyone wants a bigger house and bigger yard when you can’t go anywhere else. However, I think there is something to be said about the merit of having a formal survey with real data to validate our feelings about housing and lifestyle during such a strange and unprecedented time.

For some background, NAR conducts these housing and lifestyle surveys every 2 years, polling 2,000 individuals from the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country. They have been conducting these surveys for two decades, the purpose being to track or predict what housing and transportation might look like for investors.

Besides the trends that were anticipated during this era, I think it’s especially important to note the increased desire to own homes in walkable yet non-urban settings (the possibility of owning a spacious home in the city is inherently not as viable as owning one in the suburbs or the country). I think what we’re going to see is young people aspiring to be homeowners again (hear that, millennials?), as a mass exodus from dense city life ensues.

As someone who loves the city and never wants to leave, I personally hope to take advantage of this cultural shift, which I hope will be reflected in increased rent drops. Fingers crossed!

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

Real Estate Associations

NAR and other industry groups call for caution before ending conservatorship

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) The National Association of Realtors joins industry groups to urge the Treasury to avoid a rushed end to conservatorship.

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A metal globe in New York City representing government conservatorship

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) joined the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the American Bankers Association (ABA), and the National Association of Home Builders (AHB) in voicing their concerns about a rushed effort to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In response to the financial and housing crisis of 2006 through 2008, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs) into conservatorship in September 2008. To stabilize the firms, the Treasury gave the companies a $190 billion lending package. In return, the Treasury would receive senior preferred shares, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be required to make quarterly dividend payments to the Treasury, among other things.

It’s 12 years later now, and FHFA’s Director Mark Calabria’s top priority is to remove the company from government control and place it back in private hands before President Trump leaves office. And, the housing industry associations argue abruptly ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could destabilize the housing market.

In a letter to the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the housing industry associations said, “We are concerned that other potential actions to release the GSEs from conservatorship without the necessary safeguards would undermine investor confidence, create volatility in the single-family, and multifamily mortgage markets and impede access to credit for consumers.”

“During conservatorship, investors have relied on the Treasury backstop of the GSEs, which totals over $250 billion, as well as the effective control of the GSEs by the federal government.” By ending the conservatorship with the GSEs without anything in place, the groups say it “could cause investors to reassess the nature of any backstop and result in severe market disruptions.”

The letter points out “examples of potential harm” such as: “a sharp pullback in investor demand for GSE mortgage-backed securities (MBS) by investors concerned about a diminution of government support and an associated increase in credit risk exposure”; And, “an increase in mortgage credit costs during economic crises, negatively impacting the GSEs’ ability to support the market in the next crisis.”

The housing industry groups strongly oppose the swift ending of the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but they don’t say they expect this will go on forever. They want to flesh out a plan that works for everyone.

“Our associations and the members we serve have worked over the past twelve years to develop reform plans and advance efforts – both legislative and administrative – that would correct structural flaws in the GSEs’ pre-conservatorship business models and allow them to transition safely out of conservatorship.”

“We have not supported, nor do we currently support, an “endless” conservatorship. Our position is quite the opposite – we wish to see the GSEs reformed and operating outside of government control. We therefore favor actions that move the GSEs closer to the preferred end state in a timely manner that does not disrupt the housing finance market and inflict broader economic harm.”

And, the NAR, along with the MBA, ABA, and NAHB now have a response to their letter.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested, “he is unlikely to support a legal move—called a consent order—to end the government conservatorships of the mortgage-finance companies before President Trump leaves office.”

“We’re going to not do anything that jeopardizes taxpayers and puts them at additional risk. We also want to be careful that we don’t do anything that overnight would limit access to mortgage finance.”

For now, it looks like Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac will remain as government-sponsored enterprises.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR teams up with AARP to improve options for senior real estate

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) Senior real estate has unique challenges for those who need it, but NAR is teaming up with AARP to provide Realtors the resources they need.

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Senior real estate with two senior citizens walking around outsides holding flowers.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and AARP have teamed up to create a new relationship forged to better assist and engage older Americans in senior real estate. This collaboration is planned to inform NAR members about community factors that support people as they age. With the number of Americans 65 and older expected to more than double to 80 million in 2040, this is important for a growing national demographic.

For NAR members using the REALTORS Property Resource® website and mobile app, a practical implementation of this partnership will be the integration of the AARP Livability Index data through those platforms. The AARP Livability Index includes robust national data that is broken down by ZIP code. It can offer vital insights into factors that impact property owners of all ages, including healthcare and transportation. This information can be passed on to clients for more informed decision-making.

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins stated, “One of our goals is to help people better understand their housing needs over a lifetime. Clearly, homebuyers and other movers can use more information to help them make choices that meet their needs.” Ms. Jenkins continued to say, We want to address the barriers that prevent people from living in their desired communities as they age and I know this relationship with NAR will help us better accomplish that goal.”

The announcement was made during the fully virtual 2020 Realtors® Conference & Expo. Bob Goldberg, CEO of the nation’s largest trade association, said, “Understanding and better assisting older Americans in their real estate transactions has been a priority of NAR for some time, and partnering with AARP is a continuation of that focus”.

Mr. Goldberg continued on to say, “Highlighting AARP’s Livability Index to Realtors® through the REALTORS Property Resource® will provide valuable insight to our members while positioning them to better safeguard and advise home and property buyers.”

Previous to the collaboration between the NAR and AARP was the NAR Seniors Real Estate Specialist® program. The Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) designation is for REALTORS® who want to be able to meet the special needs of maturing Americans when selling, buying, relocating, or refinancing residential or investment properties and complete in-depth training in a wide variety of topics specifically related to senior real estate, homebuyers and sellers over the age of 50.

“Realtors® are put through a rigorous course to earn their SRES® designation and upon completion they’re equipped with expertise on counseling senior clients through major financial and lifestyle transitions,” said Goldberg. “This collaboration with AARP will take Realtors’® efforts in serving older Americans to the next level.”

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Real Estate Associations

How do you react to housing discrimination? Learn from NAR’s new course

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) NAR’s new interactive training simulation confronts housing discrimination by putting agents in the shoes of homebuyers.

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Man sitting in a home with dog at his feet, subject to housing discrimination.

Would you know housing discrimination if you saw it?

Are you sure?

And what would you do about it?

If you’re a real estate agent, broker or Realtor, you’ve had a fair amount of training on fair housing laws. But discrimination can sometimes creep in in subtle ways – from which listings you offer a client to which clients you decide to work with to just an offhand remark about a neighborhood.

What if you’ve been part of the problem – and you didn’t even realize it?

Now you can test yourself while sharpening your understanding of housing discrimination to ensure you’re offering all clients a fair, equitable, and positive experience.

This week the National Association of Realtors (NAR) launched an online interactive training toolFairhaven.realtor – to let you do just that.

In the fictional town of Fairhaven, you work against the clock to close four different transactions that involve some kind of discrimination. You must choose how to respond, and those responses determine your journey through the simulations. Built-in feedback along the way illustrates how you could avoid the fair housing pitfalls in each situation.

To deepen the impact, the course puts you in the role of a client experiencing discrimination and pairs that with testimonials from real people whose lives have been impacted by it.

“Fairhaven uses the immersive power of storytelling to deliver powerful lessons that will help promote equity in our nation’s housing market,” said Charlie Oppler, CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, NAR’s incoming president for 2021. “NAR will continue our work to create innovative anti-discrimination training and to champion efforts that encourage diversity, fight racial bias and build more inclusive communities.”

The online platform is free to real estate professionals and doesn’t require NAR membership to use. NAR will also offer Fairhaven as a software package for brokerages and associations to incorporate into their learning management systems. It was developed in partnership with global professional services firm Ernst and Young.

Fairhaven.realtor is the latest resource offered to realtors as part of its Accountability, Culture Change and Training (ACT!) initiative designed to promote equal opportunity in real estate.

At the Nov. 19 Diversity and Inclusion virtual summit hosted by The Hill, Oppler offered a formal apology for the role realtors have played in the history of housing discrimination, including the practices of redlining and blockbusting.

“We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye,” Oppler said. “And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”

Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy, discussed the effects of housing discrimination, including creating disparities in wealth. Discrimination denied Black families the same opportunities to build wealth through home ownership, Greene said, adding that white Americans own 10 times the wealth of African-Americans.

“Realtors have an admittedly tough history,” Greene said. “But we have turned the corner and now have emerged as leaders on these important issues.”

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