Scientist Hugh Miller said: “Problems are only opportunities with thorns on them.”
We have a great opportunity right now to get the housing market back on track. Affordability is at an all-time high, thanks to low prices and record low interest rates. And, for the first time in a long time, consumers are actually returning to the market. With Spring home-buying season around the corner, we have a real chance to increase momentum in the market.
Yet, standing between us and this great opportunity for business are a few remaining thorns. Perhaps the biggest one is mortgage credit.
Sure, Congress raised the loan limits, purchased troubled loans from big lenders, and we even handed money to financial institutions and encouraged them to dole it out. One might say that large banks are awash in government money and support. So, why isn’t that money making it into consumers’ pockets?
We know that many banks have made underwriting so restrictive that good-credit buyers can’t get a loan. In many cases, they also have shut down their warehouse lending arms, making it all but impossible for small and mid-sized lenders to access funds. And, some of the largest banks are using pricing and market power to limit the flow of funds. In other words, while REALTORS® are working to help the economy, lenders are doing everything they can to boost revenue and avoid the costs of increasing capacity.
A couple of weeks ago I sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, FHFA Director Lockhart, and FDIC Chairman Bair, asking that they get together and resolve this problem now. Our message is clear: The “buck” should not stop with big banks. – Charles McMillan, 2009 NAR President