NAR Urges Financial Regulators and Industry to Make Mortgages More Attainable

WASHINGTON, December 18, 2008

The National Association of Realtors® applauds recent actions by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury making mortgage interest rates more affordable. However, further action is needed to help the thousands of people trying to buy a home or to stem off foreclosure to get a mortgage easily and quickly.

“Our members tell us that families are once again looking to enter the housing market only to find that delays, process and bureaucracy are getting in the way,” said NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth. “The federal government and the mortgage lending industry must address continuing problems that are impeding the delivery of mortgage credit to home buyers and those trying to avoid foreclosure.”

In a letter to the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and copied to President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, NAR notes that in addition to lowering interest rates, the federal government must work with mortgage lenders and credit reporting agencies to eliminate processes that are making it difficult to close on a mortgage loan so that the housing market and the nation’s economy can have a robust recovery.

“Now really is a great time to buy a home. Inventory is high, prices are down and mortgage rates are near 50-year lows. We have to unclog the system and let people achieve and hold on to the dream of homeownership,” McMillan said.

NAR is recommending that the Treasury Department provide additional TARP funds for the sole purposes of making additional loans and modifying mortgages to help prevent foreclosures.

“The housing market is clogged with short-sales that take frustratingly too long to clear. Though lax underwriting standards should never return, many lenders’ credit score requirements have become overly stringent. Good people with good credit scores are finding it difficult to qualify for loans despite the historically low mortgage rates,” said McMillan.

NAR is asking mortgage lenders and mortgage insurers to make sure they have not over-corrected their underwriting standards and added unnecessarily strict underwriting standards, such as excessively high credit scores to qualify for a mortgage. In addition, credit reporting bureaus should improve compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, including providing prompt responses to consumers who want to correct errors in their file.

Lastly, NAR is calling on all mortgage lenders, their servicers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and investors in mortgage assets to implement aggressive policies that result in more loan modifications to prevent as many foreclosures as possible, expedited processes for short-sales, and added liquidity to the nonconforming mortgage market.

“If rates stay low at near 5 percent or lower, home sales could rise nationally by 10 to 15 percent in 2009 and stabilize prices in many parts of the country,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “That, in turn, will help reduce foreclosure pressures and lower the rate of re-defaults on recently modified distressed loans. Improved loan modification tools are also necessary. Everyone needs to work together so this can become a reality.”

NAR continues to advocate for other measures that would help create long-term stability by ensuring that safe and affordable mortgages are available throughout the nation, including making the higher loan limits passed in the economic stimulus bill earlier this year permanent and extending the temporary $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers to all home buyers and eliminating the repayment requirement.

“The work is not yet finished, and NAR is committed to continuing its efforts with policy makers and the new Congress and administration to get the real estate market back on track – the nation’s economy depends on it,” McMillan said.