The Word From D.C.: Foundation

May 17, 2017

“Homeownership serves as the foundation of wealth for most American families.”
 ̶ HUD Secretary Ben Carson

In Support of the Dream

HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the Regulatory Issues Forum. Photo credit: Jon Boughtin

Responsible homeownership plays a crucial role as an engine of economic growth and in the financial well-being of U.S. households, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson told REALTORS® Tuesday at the Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.

In seeking to help “usher in a new era of homeownership, Carson’s message was unambiguous: “Government is not the source of our economic strength.” But upholding property ownership, among other rights, is key to the country’s prosperity, he said.

“This administration is looking at problems we’re having in our society. We’re looking at the totality of the problems and the totality of our resources to address those.” He affirmed his support for working with the National Association of REALTORS ® to “bring the American dream back for a lot of people.”

National Association of REALTORS® President William E. Brown raised the issue of Property Assessed Clean Energy loans with Carson. Although NAR supports the energy efficiency benefits of PACE loans, Brown is concerned that consumers are burdened with a lack of transparency and information that can threaten home buying and selling. To address these concerns, NAR believes PACE loans should be subject to the same consumer disclosure laws as mortgages. Carson said HUD is “very amenable to adjusting that policy in the future.”

Your Turn to Start a Revolution

NAR President William E. Brown welcomes REALTORS® to Washington, D.C.

“There’s a revolution brewing on almost every level of the real estate industry,” said NAR President William E. Brown at the formal opening of the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo on Tuesday. “REALTORS® must be the game changers.” The impact of tax reform on homeowners, expansion of the secondary mortgage market, and preservation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are hot topics REALTORS® will address with their congressional representatives during a week of Capitol Hill visits, as the industry—and the nation—grapple with the “volcanic” start of a new presidential administration, said NAR chief lobbyist Jerry Giovaniello. “What we represent in this time is the importance of homeownership, the stability of the country, and hope.”

NAR CEO Dale Stinton, who is retiring later this year, was also recognized for his 36 years of service to the association, 12 of which he has spent at the helm. On what he's learned from his time as CEO, Stinton said, “Try not to be too funny, and get to the point.”

Millennials Will Keep Us Strong

The U.S. economy is strong and poised to see continued growth as millennials enter the workforce and form households, noted CNBC commentator Ron Insana at the Legislative and Political Forum. Insana said the United States came out of the economic crisis in better shape than other advanced economies and today stands in a strong position in part because of the energy independence it achieved through fracking and increased natural gas production—what Insana calls a key step toward a Fortress America doctrine of economic independence. The country also continues to grow important high-tech industries fueled by millennials, the largest generational cohort in the country’s history who will keep transforming how the economy works. “No one’s ever made a profit betting against the American economy,” he said. Read more.

Reassuring Words on Flood Insurance

The head of the federal government flood insurance program says he’s confident Congress wants to avoid the short-term stop-and-start reauthorizations of the National Flood Insurance Program that led to so much market instability half a dozen years ago. Roy Wright, deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives will likely start working on reform and reauthorization of the program in the next two to three weeks and the Senate should follow shortly after that. Wright praised REALTORS®’ involvement in the reauthorization of the program five years ago and their work toward reauthorization this year. “Part of the commitment I made to your leaders is, I want to work with you,” Wright said. “I want to know what you need from us and I want you to know what we need from you. Collectively we’ll find a way forward and get there.” Read more.

Commercial Real Estate Alert

What’s ahead for commercial real estate and how can practitioners make a difference? The National Association of REALTORS® commissioned T3 Sixty Inc., a leading real estate industry research and information company headed by Stefan Swanepoel, to develop a detailed report that sheds light on the risks and opportunities facing this diverse business field. Among its observations: Global volatility and uncertainty will affect whether foreign capital continues to flow into U.S. commercial investment as has been the trend in recent years. Crowdfunding and digital transactions are expected to grow in popularity, while a range of other technological advances from smart buildings to driverless vehicles will enhance opportunities in commercial real estate. Meanwhile, potential worker shortages loom while the leadership pipeline will need replenishment s as baby boomer retirements increase over the next decade. Said Swanepoel: “It is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that we are leaving a healthy and thriving industry to the next generation, an industry that stands behind its commitment to its customers by addressing and dealing with the risks and opportunities that shape its relevancy.”

It’s Not Easy Being Green

REALTORS® are committed to reducing energy waste, but the path to turning their ambitions into reality can be bumpy. Only 43 percent say their MLSs support green data fields; only 24 percent say tiny homes—a trend growing in popularity among consumers who want to reduce their carbon footprint—are available in their market; and 70 percent say they have been involved in no transactions involving a home with green features in the last 12 months. Check out NAR’s first-ever REALTORS® and Sustainability Report.

An Honest Appraisal

Appraisal industry leaders would like agents and brokers to do more to advocate for clients in the valuation process at the Real Property Valuation Forum. “There are very few things you cannot tell an appraiser,” said Jim Amorin, president of the Appraisal Institute, a trade group that represents appraisers. He cautioned REALTORS® at the Real Property Valuation Forum against telling appraisers anything that could be construed as coercive. But he encouraged real estate pros to offer sales data that appraisers might not have access to and information about property upgrades. 

Agents and brokers can work to improve the appraisal landscape by pushing lenders to value appraiser competency. “I know who drives the bus; you guys do,” Amorin said. “Take the opportunity. If you’re unhappy with the way the lenders you work with are sourcing their appraisals, make your voices heard so that you get the most competent, qualified appraiser doing that work.”

Winning Ideas From Brokers

Low homeownership rates coupled with low inventories have brokers seeking other sources of revenue to stay competitive. Some also seek to differentiate themselves by providing superior services through ancillary services and joint ventures. Learn what brokers had to say about the mortgage business and RESPA compliance during the Idea Exchange Council for Brokers. 

—REALTOR® Magazine