Housing policy forum finds similar tales across Virginia

Sanders, Stevens, PhippsBanks can’t seem to get their acts together. Appraisers still don’t know the areas they’re working in. Government is doing too little. Government is doing too much. Consumers are clueless about what the market really means.

Sound familiar? At VAR’s first Housing Policy Forum, hundreds of Realtors from around the state got together, split up by region, and talked about what ails the market.

Across the board (except for Northern Virginia’s complaint of lack of inventory), the issues were the same.

As the six regions each read through their lists of issues, the echoes were clear. “I could probably say ‘ditto’ and sit down,” said Kemper Funkhouser, spokesman for Realtors from the Shenandoah Valley area, the fifth to present a list.

Putting those issues in context were “three wise men and a journalist”: Ken Harney of the Washington Post; NAR immediate past president Ron Phipps; Anthony Sanders, professor of real estate finance at George Macon University; and David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Not surprisingly, bank issues topped the lists — slow response time, last-minute demands, and tight-fisted lending.

“Mortgage lending is not really growing,” agreed Sanders. “We’ve swung to the part where it takes forever even to get a refi application processed.”

NAR’s Phipps (who’s also a working broker in Rhode Island) said he’s shocked that it takes so long for a bank to approve a mortgage, considering how much information is available on any borrower at the push of a button. “That’s, to me, inconceivable.”

Stevens thought that too much weight is given to credit scores, especially during a recession when everyone’s hurting. People who are perfectly capable of paying a mortgage are declined strictly based on FICO. “We have to find a way to lend to people who have been impacted by a recession,” he said, “and not think of them as criminals.”

If lenders top the list of targets of Realtor wrath, government is a close second whether because of too much action, the wrong actions, or the typical partisan circus.

“There’s a real fear that folks in government… are just not able to get anything done,” said Harney. Beneficiaries of that inability to act, though, are the GSEs: Fannie and Freddie.

“Given the tone in Washington — the inability to get anything done — is probably good for the GSEs,” Stevens said.

And that’s not a bad thing.

“There is a very important role for government,” said Phipps, “and that is to make sure the capital it available. I think the average consumer really likes the idea of having a 30-year mortgage.”

There was much more, of course — in a market like today’s how could there not be. We’ll give you the details in the next Commonwealth, and look for a video recap on VARealtor.com, too.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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