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Realtors® Call for Policy Changes to Aid First-Time Buyers, Strengthen Housing Market

Media Contact: Jenny Werwa / 202-383-1193 / Email

WASHINGTON (December 9, 2014) – Congress and the administration must address key policy issues in order to facilitate a healthy real estate market that serves current and future homeowners and drives the national economy forward, said the National Association of Realtors® today in testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing.   

“The housing market hasn’t been this unwelcoming to first-time buyers since 1987,” said 2014 NAR Conventional Finance and Lending Committee Chair Mabel Guzman, broker for AT-Properties in Chicago. “Tight credit, high fees and low inventory have combined to make it prohibitively expensive for millions of responsible, creditworthy prospective buyers to own a home. If this is the direction that the housing market is taking, we’re headed down the wrong path.”

While home prices and sales, as well as household wealth, are all up from a year ago, constrained access to mortgage credit for minorities, young buyers, and low-and moderate-income earners remains a serious problem.

Restrictive pricing policies at the Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency continue to disparately impact individuals with shorter credit histories and lower down payments, making it harder for them to buy a home.

NAR estimates that in 2013, nearly 400,000 creditworthy borrowers were priced out of the housing market because of high FHA insurance premiums. By lowering its fees, FHA could provide greater access to homeownership for historically underserved groups.

Even traditionally affordable properties like condominiums are out of reach for many home buyers because of purchasing restrictions imposed by FHA and the Government-Sponsored Enterprises. NAR supports developing policies that will provide potential buyers with access to more flexible and affordable financing opportunities and a wider choice of approved condo developments.

“Most urgently, Congress should take action to help all of the distressed homeowners who completed short sales in 2014 by passing the Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act. This bipartisan legislation will extend an expired provision that has helped millions of distressed American families by allowing tax relief for homeowners when lenders forgive some portion of the mortgage debt they owe,” said Guzman. “If this provision is not extended, hundreds of thousands of American families who did the right thing by short selling their home will have to pay income tax on ‘phantom income.’”

She said NAR will continue to work with Congress and the administration to enact key policy reforms that will have a positive impact on the housing market. 

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.

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