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NAR Ready to Fight for Homeownership Future

Media Contact: Stephanie Singer

ORLANDO (November 9, 2012) – The next few years will be pivotal for the future of homeownership in this country, according to 2013 National Association of Realtors® President Gary Thomas in a news conference today during the 2012 Realtors® Conference and Expo.

"For most of this nation's history, homeownership has been an investment in our collective futures," said Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif. "Realtors® know our country faces some tough choices ahead, but we also understand the vital role that real estate plays in both the long- and short-term health of this nation. Our country's continued commitment to homeownership is part of what has made us strong; I think Franklin Delano Roosevelt said it best - 'A nation of homeowners is unconquerable.'"

In 2013, Thomas explained, Congress is expected to focus on tax policy and reform to address the federal debt. As policymakers struggle to balance federal spending and revenue, programs and benefits that encourage homeownership may be affected. One popular and effective incentive is the mortgage interest deduction.

"Last year, NAR secured 183 bipartisan cosponsors for a House resolution that emphasized continued support for the current federal income tax deduction for mortgage interest, and we will continue to work with members of Congress on the consumer's behalf on this issue," said Thomas. "Normally, nearly nine out of 10 home buyers must borrow money to buy a home. Tax benefits like the MID help hard-working families begin building their future through homeownership. And encouraging homeownership has been shown to strengthen families, communities and our nation's economy."

Realtors® are also concerned about the availability of affordable financing. NAR continues to advocate a broad definition for the Qualified Residential Mortgage rule; under a narrowly defined QRM, borrowers with less than 20 percent down would have to choose between higher fees and rates, up to 3 percentage points more, or a 9-14 year delay while they save for the necessary down payment, according to NAR research.

"Realtors® advocate a responsible, sustainable model for homeownership," said Thomas. "Saving the necessary down payment has always been the principal obstacle for first-time home buyers. Strong evidence shows that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower's ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk, and not high down payments."

NAR research has shown that tight credit continues to hold back home sales, as well. According to the most recent Realtors® Confidence Index, more than 50 percent of loans in September went to borrowers with credit scores above 740. In comparison, only 41 percent of loans backed by Fannie Mae had FICO scores above 740 during 2001 to 2004 - a time of normal residential real estate markets - while 43 percent of Freddie Mac-backed loans were above 740. NAR economists estimate that an additional 500,000-700,000 home sales could be made if credit conditions returned to normal.

"The issue right now isn't whether someone chooses to rent or buy today; it's whether they'll be able to become homeowners in the future," said Thomas. "As the leading advocate for homeownership and real estate issues, NAR is ready to engage. Realtors® are fully committed to ensuring that anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home has the opportunity to pursue that dream."

The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.