With Housing Markets Mostly Back, Realtors Focus on Future of Real Estate

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Monday, November 30th, 2015

As the country heads into an election year, Realtors are gathering this week for the REALTORS Conference & Expo, here through November 16, where their focus will be on shaping the industry's future and solving the issues holding back a full restoration of real estate markets.

"Few issues are as important to the future of our country as the health of residential and commercial real estate markets since housing and real estate impacts individuals and families, communities and the nation's economy," said National Association of Realtors President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark. "The industry has undergone tremendous changes in recent years, and while most of the country has returned to an active and healthy housing market, there are still issues that need to be tackled, and housing needs to remain a national priority."

Throughout 2015, NAR has helped reshape policies on behalf of the industry, its residential and commercial members, and consumers. Earlier this year, Realtors achieved victory when Congress reauthorized the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act for six years, returning certainty to commercial real estate markets. NAR also won when the Federal Communications Commission implemented strong net neutrality rules to keep the Internet open and free. Realtors and homebuyers also succeeded when President Obama announced a reduction in annual premiums for Federal Housing Administration loans and enabled more first-time and underserved homebuyers to enter the market.

The housing market has also made great strides this year; an increasing share of pent-up sellers realized their equity gains and purchased a new home. According to recently released NAR survey data, sellers realized a median equity gain of $40,000 this year over their home's original purchase price, a 23 percent increase over last year. For buyers, job growth is holding strong, affordability has improved slightly since spring and mortgage rates remain below 4 percent; buyer demand will remain relatively strong for the remainder of the year.

"We are at a key turning point for the housing recovery, so we need to continue this positive momentum and tackle several crucial legislative and market issues that still lay ahead," said Polychron.  

Despite that positive news, NAR believes ongoing tight credit is hampering a full market recovery and leaving potential buyers on the sidelines, and urges regulators and lenders to only enact policies that create a balanced environment that is safe and affordable, especially for first-time buyers. NAR data show the share of first-time buyers fell to 32 percent of the market in the past year, its lowest point since 1987.

As Congress considers legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs, one current proposal aims to use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's credit risk guarantee fees to fund the programs, and NAR has been urging Congress to not place an unnecessary long-term burden on American homeowners or prevent the government-sponsored enterprises from effectively managing their risk.

Realtors are also urging policymakers to extend mortgage debt forgiveness tax relief, which expired at the end of 2014, and pass H.R. 9, the Innovation Act, to protect the industry from frivolous patent troll lawsuits.

Looking ahead to 2016, there are several crucial issues that lay ahead. Realtors will be keeping an eye on the Environmental Protection Agency's "Waters of the U.S." regulation and urging Congress to pass legislation to withdraw the onerous rule, which places more U.S. bodies of water under the federal government's jurisdiction and could signification impact property rights and real estate development. Commercial real estate practitioners are also focused on important issues affecting commercial real estate, including opposing proposals that would repeal 1031 like-kind exchanges, which are essential to investment and commercial real estate transactions.

"Realtors are confident and optimistic about the industry's future growth and the health of residential and commercial markets," said Polychron. "We are committed and ready to work with the industry and our country's leaders to ensure the continuation of strong real estate markets and finally achieve a full recovery."

More than 20,000 industry executives, Realtors, exhibitors and guests are expected in San Diego to attend the conference. Throughout the meetings, Realtors will participate in hundreds of information sessions and professional development workshops to gain education and insights into residential and commercial real estate markets, home buying and selling trends, commercial market growth, economic forecasts, and public policy and regulatory concerns.

Speakers and guest panelists throughout the week include NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who will present his 2016 residential and commercial market and economic forecasts; Charlie Cook, political analyst and publisher of "The Cook Political Report"; Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae; Jim Costello, senior vice president at Real Capital Analytics; and senior staff from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Aviation Administration and Moody's Analytics.