Is it be wishful thinking or real recovery in the housing market?
Recently Bernanke gave testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress that he felt the economy may be bottoming out and is likely to turn upward later this year. But how do you think the economy is doing, where it is headed and what are you doing on a local level to help?
Consumer spending, which dropped sharply in the second half of last year, grew in the first quarter. Are you scared to spend money today? Are there local businesses that could use your help? Sure we are doing everything we can to help housing, but what about helping your neighbor’s businesses?
The housing market, which has been in decline for three years, has shown some signs of recovery. Pending home sales rose with many first-time buyers taking advantage of historically good housing affordability conditions, according to the National Association of Realtors®. The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in March, increased 3.2% to 84.6 from a level of 82.0 in February, and is 1.1% higher than March 2008 when it was 83.7. The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes.
The recession is dragging on and looking at the unemployment rate, which jumped nationally to 8.5 percent recently while hitting 13.5% in SC, it is obvious we are not OK yet. Also on a local level is the interesting news about Foreclosures in SC being halted. Which is in some ways good news but we need to get foreclosure rescue scams and other predatory and irresponsible lending practices under control. These scams have been on the rise, negatively impacting families, communities, and the housing market. The NAR recently testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity on the importance of protecting homeowners from these anti-consumer practices.
NAR provided a list of recommendations that would help prevent foreclosure rescue scams and protect consumers. The recommendations include enacting H.R. 1231, the Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Act of 2009, as introduced. The bill would create appropriate minimum standards for disclosure and terms of service for individuals or firms offering their services as foreclosure consultants to distressed homeowners. The public opinion of Realtors is so low, yet we are constantly working to help people in many ways that they are unaware of. I have heard my local Realtor association is working on giving a free seminar to the public about predatory lending, so that makes me very happy. The public needs to understand Realtors are here to help, not just help you buy or sell real estate. I ask all my brother and sister Realtors to respond to RPAC Calls to action because we can help the average American in many ways IF we just stand together and let our voices be heard.
NAR has asked Congress to direct lenders and servicers to be more aggressive in helping distressed homeowners with loan modifications, ensure foreclosure prevention options are widely advertised, shorten the closing process for short sales, and establish methods for the private and public sectors to actively educate home buyers about foreclosure alternatives and today’s safer more affordable mortgage products. Congress should also pass balanced mortgage reform that safeguards consumers and assures access to mortgages at a reasonable cost. I have seen first hand the hard time people have when dealing with the banks regarding short sales because I have one under contract today and will be calling a gentleman about listing another later today.
I wish NAR would talk about the stuff we do for the good of the public in addition to the current media campaigns about how it is a great time to buy. What do you think? Are you concerned about what homeowners in distress can do? Are you talking about job fairs? Are you encouraging others to support local businesses like I did yesterday when talking with another agent? I again mentioned the great locally owned restaurant that just opened on S Main and how she needed to check it out.
We cannot rely solely on the government to fix this problem, we must become involved to help ourselves and our communities. Together we can make a difference.