For more than a decade, NAR’s public awareness campaign educated consumers about the value of REALTORS® when it comes to buying or selling a home – our unsurpassed ability to find and market homes fairly and at the best price, our deep knowledge of local markets, our substantial negotiating skills during a purchase, and of course, our steadfast adherence to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
In addition, there are many other qualities we REALTORS® possess that make us the best professional group out there. Chief among them is our unwavering commitment to the importance of private property rights in America. Over the past century, home ownership has shown itself to be an integral part of not just building personal wealth, but in making America great.
But on an immediate and very individual level, REALTORS® know that homes are where we experience “the stuff of life” — the best moments, surrounded by our families. This belief drives us to do what we do. Our homes are the places where we raise our children and teach them to fly. They are our shelter during life’s darkest storms and our retreat for sustenance and renewal. The desire for a private space for ourselves and our family is such a fundamental part of being human, it’s really almost part of our DNA. We cherish our homes as we do the hopes and dreams we have for our children, and our children’s children.
As a REALTOR®, I understand this innate need in all of us. But as the NAR Leadership Team mentioned in September’s REALTOR® Magazine article, “What We’re Fighting For,” home ownership is at a crossroads, and it’s our children who face an uncertain future. The very home ownership policies that we have benefitted from are now at stake. To keep the dream of home ownership a reality for future generations, the Public Awareness Campaign has evolved into the Public Advocacy Campaign. You can see the newest TV ad below.
The campaign began airing new TV and radio ads on September 5. Over the course of 2012, we will run more than 16,000 television and radio spots throughout the country. And in 2011, the campaign generated approximately 8 billion impressions. That is an incredible number of people seeing and hearing about the positive message of home ownership. We’re doing this because the risks are real. And we’re doing it for our children.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the lack of consumer confidence in the economy. The negative drumbeat of grim economic news has been steady. And consumers are the ones who have been taking it in.
But there’s some positive news on the legislative front that I am sure could get home owners – and all consumers – smiling again.
Legislation introduced by former REALTOR ® and good friend, Senator Johnny Isakson, and Senator Barbara Boxer would boost economic growth and keep more Americans in their homes by helping up to 2 million non-delinquent homeowners refinance their mortgages at today’s historically low interest rates.
Those that would benefit from the bill are home owners who are current on their payments, but are “underwater” on their homes because the value of their home is now less than the amount they owe on the home.
The legislation would save American families thousands of dollars and result in up to 54,000 fewer defaults. Few defaults in turn are good for both consumers and lending organizations.
By far though, the greatest benefit would be the infusion of confidence the resulting stabilized market conditions would bring to home owners and home buyers. Why? Because confident home owners and home buyers feel secure and therefore take actions that reflect that — they will spend more, will be able to start small businesses, and generally take actions that reinforce that confidence…and send a positive ripple effect throughout the entire economy.
Interest rates for 30-year home mortgages are currently at 4.12 percent, the lowest rate in 60 years. Yet of the 27.5 million mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, more than 8 million still carry an interest rate at or above 6 percent.
The bill will also:
• Eliminate risk-based fees on loans for which Fannie and Freddie already bear the risk;
• Remove refinancing limits on underwater properties;
•Make it easier for borrowers with second mortgages to participate in refinancing programs;
• Require that borrowers are able to receive a fair interest rate, comparable to that received by any other borrower in good standing who has not suffered a drop in home value and has stayed current with their mortgage payments.
So, even though the days are getting shorter as fall approaches, positive proposals like this one have the potential to make them much brighter.
I’m a third-generation REALTOR® and San Francisco native. With that comes an enormous pride in my city and joy to be living here. As a native, I’m always delighted when people come here and fall in love with the city – leave their hearts here, as the well-known lyrics go. There’s so much to offer, that everyone finds their own special reasons for falling in love with it.
But as with any place that appeals to a lot of people, along come the higher prices. As a REALTOR®, I’ve seen it happen in San Francisco, pricing middle-class Americans out of the market.
However, it may become even more difficult to achieve the American dream of home ownership in San Francisco and throughout the United States, since current mortgage loan limits are set to expire on Sept. 30, unless Congress acts to extend them.
Not only would potential home buyers be shut out of the market, but the overall economic recovery could be significantly hampered.
So I’m asking all REALTORS® to contact your members of Congress to urge them to extend the current loan limits for two years.
For example, unless mortgage loan limits are extended, the loan limit mortgage cap in San Francisco will drop from $729,750 to $625,500, significantly impacting both buyers and sellers. Buyers will find it very difficult and expensive to obtain financing above $625,500.
Similarly, sellers who have homes priced above $647,392 (the $625,500 plus a 3.5% down payment) will find it hard to find buyers who can buy. They may end up having to lower their home price more than $100,000! Especially with home values lower than ever, this is a real hit to home owners.
You may be thinking this will only affect a handful of high-cost markets. But the reality is more extensive than that. Over 669 counties in 42 states would be negatively impacted by the loan limit change. The average decline in loan limits would be more than $68,000.
So please, make sure you respond today to the call for action to extend mortgage loan limits for two years. We must let Congress know that by doing this, they’ll also be continuing the hopes and dreams of many Americans to find that just-right, special place to call home.
We REALTORS® work hard to help people realize their dreams of home ownership. However, that’s not all we necessarily do. Many of us go the extra mile by volunteering our time and skills to help improve our own communities or communities across the globe, making an extraordinary impact on people’s lives. I cherish the time I spend helping out in my community of Orange County and I’ve been active with the March of Dimes. I wouldn’t trade it for a second.
Knowing how important it is to be involved in our communities, REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards recognize Realtors® who make a difference and earlier this week they named this year’s 10 finalists. The finalists serve the needs of those who are less fortunate in a variety of ways.
Plus, I’m happy to say that two of the finalists are from my home state of California. The work they are doing in their communities is just tremendous. Marta Karpiel, a REALTOR® from Carmel, Calif. raises money to help remove hundreds of landmines in Cambodia. Wayne J. Shaffer, a REALTOR® from Santa Cruz, cofounded a local soup kitchen, as well as a home that provides shelter and care to women experiencing a crisis pregnancy.
The other eight finalists are also outstanding. Their contributions run the gamut — from raising $1 million to fight multiple sclerosis, creating miles of bike and pedestrian trails, founding a youth outreach program to keep teens safe from drugs and alcohol, and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to help hospitals and wounded veterans. They also touch people’s lives on a global stage by helping build homes and a school in Guatemala, and bringing clean water to families in Kenya. For more details on all the finalists go to REALTOR.org.
In October five winners will be selected and highlighted in the November/December issue of REALTOR® Magazine, and announced at our Annual Conference. I hope you’ll join me in Anaheim for the big announcement.
Despite a troubling economy and an uncertain housing market, these REALTORS® continue to volunteer their time and put others before themselves. This year’s finalists are incredible examples of how Realtors® value service and a commitment to bettering communities, whether it is in their own backyard or across the world.
I’m continually amazed and proud of our REALTOR® family.
Gary Thomas, 2011 NAR First Vice President