Posts

Executive Spotlight: Jared James of Jared James Enterprises

Jared-JamesThis week, our spotlight focuses on motivation, and our guest is one of the most respected and influential motivational speakers in today’s real estate finance world: writer/real estate agent/training coach Jared James, who runs Jared James Enterprises out of Milford, Conn.

Q: What inspired you to become a coach/trainer for the financial services and real estate industries?

Jared James: It is not something you ever plan to do, it just kind of happens. After I had achieved a lot of success in my own career, I started getting asked a lot to speak at events – first locally, and then nationally. Before I knew it I was getting rave reviews from the audience and getting asked over and over again if I offered coaching.

You only have to hear that so many times before a light bulb goes off and you realize that other people see something there and wanted me to offer coaching and training. It started small, like anything else, but grew very quickly once I was able to communicate a repeatable process to follow for predictable results.

Q: How do financial and real estate professionals benefit from your input, especially your weekly coaching services?
Jared James:
I make it a point to keep our weekly broadcasts short and to the point. There is no fluff. Our students tune in every week to get specific strategies to grow that they can implement right away and the motivation to follow through. For anyone that isn’t available live, the broadcast is recorded and available all week on their dashboard on demand.

Q: How would you categorize the mood of your target audiences? Do you see them as optimistic, apprehensive or cautious?

Jared James: It really depends. A lot of times I end up speaking at events where I already have some context with many people in the audience due to things like social media. People are able to follow me and connect all throughout the year which creates a great excitement at the event. Other times I get up in front of audiences that I have no context with and have to spend a little more time in the beginning gaining their trust and making them feel like I’ve got something that they are going to want to hear. There is something about that challenge that I still love.

Q: What have been some of the measurable results that have been tracked back to your training and motivation?

Jared James: This is really what my company is all about: results. That’s why in addition to the coaching and training that we offer, we also have a marketing department that does nothing but create leads for our clients.

The best thing about creating leads for people is that you can’t fake results. They are either getting them or they aren’t which makes that part of our company so measurable. We also get testimonials every day from our coaching/training clients in our private Facebook group, by email and in other ways telling us about things that have happened in their businesses because of strategies they have implemented as a result of being in our program.

Just yesterday, I was stopped by a lady in New York who told me that she wouldn’t have been in the business any more if she hadn’t of joined our program last year. It’s gratifying, to say the least.

Jared James is online at www.jaredjamestoday.com.

Recalling “The Small Home of Tomorrow”

Seventy years ago, a remarkable book called “The Small Home of Tomorrow,” written by prominent architect Paul R. Williams, set forth a prescient consideration of the challenges that faced the housing market of post-World War II America. The situation of that distant time was not unlike the problems being faced in our current environment: a wave of young potential home buyers facing a considerable lack of new and affordable inventory, which was complicated by having too many older properties on the market that were inadequate to meet the needs of the day.

Sadly, Williams is mostly forgotten today, and if he is recalled it is primarily because of his race: he was the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects. But at the peak of his career, he was nationally recognized for his innovative designs of luxury homes, commercial property, government buildings, hotels and churches. His clients ranged from the Los Angeles municipal government to Saks Fifth Avenue (for their Beverly Hills retail outlet) to celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball.

“The Small Home of Tomorrow” took Williams’ focus away from the stellar attractions of the Hollywood set to a more pressing situation that few people in 1945 were willing to openly address. This fascinating book offered a bold challenge to home builders and property developers: create a new landscape of residential housing that was both aesthetically pleasing and efficient while keeping costs at a level that returning veterans and their families could properly afford.

“It is a foregone conclusion that there will be thousands of modern small homes built in the postwar world,” Williams wrote. “An eager generation of young people coming out of the war is filled with the desire to have homes of their own – and homes of their own planning and building.”

Williams’ book offered 40 sketches and floor plans for designs that could accommodate the postwar generation’s desire for their own residential properties. Williams priced the construction costs between $3,000 and $10,000 – very fair prices for that era – and he stressed the importance of housing materials and designs to meet the specific requirements of different geographical needs.

“Each section of the country should develop a type of house that would suit its particular climatic and economic needs,” he wrote. “In Pennsylvania, for example, field stone might be used in building a modern house as well as for the farmhouse. In California, redwood will be used successfully.”

By contemporary standards, “The Small Home of Tomorrow” is fascinating because it stressed the pride of homeownership while maintaining a sense of practical consideration. Compare the wisdom of Williams’ book with the state of home building in the years leading up to the Housing Bubble: the foolish notion that bigger is always better, thus resulting in a rash of look-alike McMansions that too many people were unable to maintain when the economy turned sour.

Yet the micro-sized residences of the so-called “tiny house” movement are not what Williams had in mind. Those properties take the concept of homeownership to the other extreme, and those offerings seem doomed (at least for the time being) to be an entertaining but distracting fringe consideration.

Ultimately, Williams stressed the need to properly plan out housing strategies. In one of his most famous quotes, he stated, “Planning is thinking beforehand how something is to be made or done, and mixing imagination with the product – which in a broad sense makes all of us planners. The only difference is that some people get a license to get paid for thinking and the rest of us just contribute our good thoughts to our fellow man.”

Perhaps Williams was being a bit too generous. At a time when housing planning at every level – not just home building, but lending, policy making and servicing – seems more reactive than proactive, the concept of taking the time to think things out becomes a very attractive commodity. Good thoughts are one thing, but smart thoughts are even better. We can learn a lot from Williams’ work and the philosophy of “The Small Home of Tomorrow” – only if we take the time and are willing to listen to what he was trying to tell us.

About The Author

[author_bio]

Survey: FHA Changes Won’t Improve Housing

A new survey finds that mortgage and housing industry professionals believe that President Obama’s recent announcement to reduce the price of FHA annual premiums will have a minimal impact on the size of the home purchase market. Here’s the data:

The White House says the President’s plan to reduce fees, which the FHA charges borrowers, is designed to help jump-start the housing market. But 47% of respondents to the Collingwood Mortgage Outlook Report for February say that President Obama’s estimate that 250,000 new mortgage borrowers will be added as a result of a reduction in the FHA annual premium is “too high,” while only 34% said it is “on the mark” and 19% said it is “too low.”

In addition, approximately twenty-five percent of respondents opined that this announcement was more of a political move by the Obama administration than a major change in the market. They said the impact, while positive, will be minimal.

Respondents also were harsh on the FHA, with 55% agreeing with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon who late last year said, “The real question for me is should we be in the FHA Business at all.” One lender who agrees with Mr. Dimon expressed that, “FHA has turned into a minefield for lenders and (mortgage) servicers.”

False Claims Investigations placed first on the survey’s list of the most concerning type of FHA monitoring and associated enforcement actions.

On a brighter note, 80% of survey respondents believe business will get better this spring. This is the most positive response since Collingwood began collecting this data in September of last year. Several respondents pointed to lower mortgage rates to explain their positive outlook. Most people surveyed agreed the rates will continue to be relatively low for the foreseeable future.

Data was collected via an online survey from January 12 to 21, 2015, with the help of The Five Star Institute. It was distributed to a diverse group of mortgage industry leaders. The mortgage and housing professionals surveyed represent various originators, lenders, servicers and other industry participants.

About The Author

[author_bio]

Chris Christie’s Housing Problem

website-pdf-download

TME-PHhallNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to move into the White House in January 2017. However, I doubt he will get that wish – due, in large part, to the housing problems of the residents in his state.

Of course, Christie inherited a housing-related mess when first came into office five years ago. Sadly, he has done very little to improve the situation. In fact, things have gotten worse since he’s been on the scene.

How bad are things in the Garden State? According to the recently released National Movers Study, the state that saw the greatest exodus of residents in 2014 was New Jersey, where 65 percent of all moves were to another state. New Jersey’s ridiculously high property taxes were cited as being a key reason for this sad situation.

But this raises another question: how bad are New Jersey’s property taxes. An investigation conducted last spring by the news site NJ Spotlight found net property taxes for lower and middle-income residents rose more in Christie’s first term than they had under Jon Corzine, his predecessor: a 20.3 percent increase under Christie’s first term versus 14.1 percent under Corzine. This data was publicly available on the state’s Department of Community Affairs website, but Christie’s office had it erased from view after the NJ Spotlight report came out.

And the problem isn’t just with residential property taxes. Mercedes-Benz paid $916,700 in property taxes last year on its 37-acre U.S. headquarters in Montvale, N.J., and that excessive tax bill was a key reason behind the automaker’s decision to pack up and relocate to Georgia. Other major and smaller businesses are also unfairly burdened by this problem.

Even worse is the depressed level of New Jersey housing. Last year, CoreLogic reported that New Jersey recorded the highest percentage of foreclosure among mortgaged homes and the longest amount of time to complete a foreclosure (approximately three years). And last month, RealtyTrac announced that Atlantic City, the state’s ailing gambling resort, had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation among metropolitan markets with a population higher than 200,000.

Things are even worse in regard to affordable housing. The state’s Supreme Court is now weighing in on whether Christie’s administration intentionally refused to adhere to a March 2014 directive from the court to approve revised rules for the N.J. Council on Affordable Housing; Christie initially sought to shut down the council and is now trying to ignore it to death. Justice Barry Albin used his court position to openly question where Christie’s priorities were in this matter, forcefully stating, “How much longer do you want the poor people of this state to wait before they have adequate housing?”

As for the rebuilding of the damaged property relating to the 2012 Superstorm Sandy, forget it – Christie has failed to leverage his photo ops with President Obama into a speedy resolution to this lingering tragedy.

If Christie wants to run for president, he certainly cannot run on his housing record. The man is not, by any definition, a fiscal conservative – if anything, he is a fiscal nitwit. Yeah, it might be funny to see Christie shout down raucous reporters or shake his belly on Jimmy Fallon’s comedy talk show, but there is nothing to laugh about when you consider the mess that Christie has created in his state.

Chris Christie for President? Please, we can do better than that!

About The Author

[author_bio]

The 2015 Economic Outlook

The U.S. economy will grow nearly 3 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis this year compared to 2.5 percent last year, according to the Economic Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association.

The committee, which includes 15 chief economists from among the largest banks in North America, sees an improved fundamental backdrop for growth. Sectors that were severely damaged during the 2008-2009 crisis have healed significantly. In particular, the banking and real estate sectors are in much better health. Household balance sheets have also improved, with strong gains in asset prices and a dramatic drop in debt service burden.

The fiscal and monetary policy environment is supportive of growth. Fiscal policy is no longer a headwind as budget brinkmanship battles abate and tax and spending policies stabilize. The group forecasts the federal budget deficit will stabilize at $470 billion in fiscal year 2015.

The committee expects the Federal Reserve to maintain near-zero interest rates through mid-2015. Thereafter, the bank economists see a very gradual normalization of interest rates over the next several years.

“We expect the Fed to calibrate its policy to minimize any shock to growth,” said Ethan Harris, chairman of the group and co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The group sees falling energy prices as a net positive for the economy. Low prices will hurt the oil patch, cutting into mining employment and capital spending. However, this will likely be more than offset by the boost to energy consumers.

“Gas at about $2 a gallon is like an across-the-board tax cut,” said Harris. “Cash savings at the pump leave more money for consumers to save or spend elsewhere.”

Despite the weakness in energy sector investment, the group sees business investment as a strong point for the economy. The consensus forecast is that business investment will rise 5 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis this year.

The Committee sees continued monthly job gains of 200,000 or higher through this year. However, the bank economists expressed concerns that job gains had not yet triggered healthy wage growth.

“Top earners have fared well since the last recession, but the same can’t be said for middle and lower-income families,” said Harris. “Wages have barely kept up with inflation over the last six years, straining household budgets.”

Nonetheless, the Committee believes the ongoing drop in unemployment will start pushing wage growth higher.

“Solid job growth, improving wages and lower energy costs should encourage more families to spend,” said Harris.  The Committee expects 3 percent real consumption growth in 2015.

The group expects residential investment to be stronger this year with gains in single and multi-family starts and home sales.  The EAC expects home prices nationally to rise 3.5 percent this year.

“With home prices on the rise, families are once again viewing homes as good investments,” said Harris. “Even if mortgage interest rates rise some this year, more people are going to want to buy a first or larger home.”

The group’s consensus is that mortgage rates will rise only from about 4 percent now to 4.5 percent by year-end.

The group forecasts that consumer credit growth will be modest this year and business lending growth will be stronger, but will return to a more normal pace of growth.  In 2015 and 2016, loans to individuals are expected to grow about 6 percent and loans to businesses will grow about 10 percent.

“We’re optimistic that business lending will grow at a double-digit rate this year to finance healthy business investment,” said Harris.  “Stronger growth in business lending will be critical for the economy.  Banks are ready to meet demand as businesses take the next step forward.”

The Committee sees low inflation resulting from falling energy prices, which will temporarily push year-over-year headline inflation into negative territory.

“Outside of energy, the improving domestic economy could put upward pressure on prices, but the weak global backdrop and a strong dollar should limit any inflation acceleration,” said Harris.

The Committee believes the greatest near-term risks to the U.S. economy come from outside the country.

“Disappointing growth in Europe, China and Japan is a reminder that the global economy still faces major challenges,” said Harris.

The Committee also sees major long-run budget challenges.

“As the baby boom generation retires, the federal budget deficit will balloon again, posing a major challenge to future generations,” said Harris.

Nonetheless, the Committee sees a generally positive U.S. economic outlook for 2015 with above-trend growth, low inflation and a go-slow Fed.

About The Author

[author_bio]

Year-Over-Year Foreclosures Drop

According to CoreLogic, for the month of November 2014, there were 41,000 completed foreclosures nationally, down from 46,000 in November 2013, a year-over-year decrease of 9.6 percent and down 64 percent from the peak of completed foreclosures in September 2010. On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures were down 12.6 percent from the 47,000 reported in October 2014. As a basis of comparison, before the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.

Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, there have been approximately 5.5 million completed foreclosures across the country, and since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 7 million homes lost to foreclosure.

As of November 2014, approximately 567,000 homes nationally were in some stage of foreclosure, known as the foreclosure inventory, compared to 880,000 in November 2013, a year-over-year decrease of 35.5 percent and representing 37 consecutive months of year-over-year declines. The foreclosure inventory as of November 2014 made up 1.5 percent of all homes with a mortgage, compared to 2.2 percent in November 2013. On a month-over-month basis, the foreclosure inventory was down 3.3 percent from October 2014. The current foreclosure rate of 1.5 percent is the lowest inventory level since March 2008.

“The foreclosure rate fell in every state, with only the District of Columbia seeing a small increase,” said Molly Boesel, senior economist. “However, some states still have foreclosure rates of more than twice the national rate. While the national level of foreclosures may normalize in the next two years, there will always be the potential for some pockets of distress in the mortgage market.”

“The number of completed foreclosures over the past twelve months—just under 575,000—are at the lowest level in seven years. This month’s figure of 41,000 foreclosures is in line levels experienced in the second half of 2007, which was the very beginning of the housing crisis,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “At current foreclosure rates, we expect to see the foreclosure inventory in the U.S. to drop below 500,000 homes sometime in the first quarter of 2015 which would be another milestone in the healing of the housing market.”

About The Author

[author_bio]

Chris Christie Has A Housing Problem

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to move into the White House in January 2017. However, I doubt he will get that wish – due, in large part, to the housing problems of the residents in his state.

Of course, Christie inherited a housing-related mess when first came into office five years ago. Sadly, he has done very little to improve the situation. In fact, things have gotten worse since he’s been on the scene.

How bad are things in the Garden State? According to the recently released National Movers Study, the state that saw the greatest exodus of residents in 2014 was New Jersey, where 65 percent of all moves were to another state. New Jersey’s ridiculously high property taxes were cited as being a key reason for this sad situation.

But this raises another question: how bad are New Jersey’s property taxes. An investigation conducted last spring by the news site NJ Spotlight found net property taxes for lower and middle-income residents rose more in Christie’s first term than they had under Jon Corzine, his predecessor: a 20.3 percent increase under Christie’s first term versus 14.1 percent under Corzine. This data was publicly available on the state’s Department of Community Affairs website, but Christie’s office had it erased from view after the NJ Spotlight report came out.

And the problem isn’t just with residential property taxes. Mercedes-Benz paid $916,700 in property taxes last year on its 37-acre U.S. headquarters in Montvale, N.J., and that excessive tax bill was a key reason behind the automaker’s decision to pack up and relocate to Georgia. Other major and smaller businesses are also unfairly burdened by this problem.

Even worse is the depressed level of New Jersey housing. Last year, CoreLogic reported that New Jersey recorded the highest percentage of foreclosure among mortgaged homes and the longest amount of time to complete a foreclosure (approximately three years). And last month, RealtyTrac announced that Atlantic City, the state’s ailing gambling resort, had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation among metropolitan markets with a population higher than 200,000.

Things are even worse in regard to affordable housing. The state’s Supreme Court is now weighing in on whether Christie’s administration intentionally refused to adhere to a March 2014 directive from the court to approve revised rules for the N.J. Council on Affordable Housing; Christie initially sought to shut down the council and is now trying to ignore it to death. Justice Barry Albin used his court position to openly question where Christie’s priorities were in this matter, forcefully stating, “How much longer do you want the poor people of this state to wait before they have adequate housing?”

As for the rebuilding of the damaged property relating to the 2012 Superstorm Sandy, forget it – Christie has failed to leverage his photo ops with President Obama into a speedy resolution to this lingering tragedy.

If Christie wants to run for president, he certainly cannot run on his housing record. The man is not, by any definition, a fiscal conservative – if anything, he is a fiscal nitwit. Yeah, it might be funny to see Christie shout down raucous reporters or shake his belly on Jimmy Fallon’s comedy talk show, but there is nothing to laugh about when you consider the mess that Christie has created in his state.

Chris Christie for President? Please, we can do better than that!

About The Author

[author_bio]

Executive Spotlight: Stan Middleman of Freedom Mortgage Corp.

Stan-MiddlemanThis week, our spotlight shines on Mount Laurel, N.J.-based Freedom Mortgage Corporation, which is offering a service called “mortgage department in a box” that is designed to help smaller financial institutions in today’s lending environment.

Q: How did Freedom Mortgage’s idea of a “mortgage department in a box” come about?

Stan Middleman: Mortgage lending is far more complex today than it was when I entered the business. You need technology, expertise, back office support and financial resources to create loans quickly, economically and compliantly. The additional requirements mean that it is harder for smaller and medium sized financial institutions to have mortgage departments when their main business lines emphasize banking services other than mortgage lending.

Community banks and credit unions excel at serving their customers and members with products that often don’t include home loans. But they want to offer mortgages to keep customers from going elsewhere and lower the risk of losing them to larger banks.

Freedom Mortgage is one of the largest lenders in the country, and we have plenty of capacity in all aspects of the mortgage manufacturing process. So it made great sense to leverage those capabilities and offer a turnkey solution for these smaller and medium sized banks and credit unions. The division is called the Financial Institutions Partner Group (FIPG).

Q: Currently, how many financial institutions are making use of the services offered by the Financial Institutions Partner Group? And what are your projections for 2015?

Stan Middleman: We had great acceptance of this business segment in 2014. We launched the group in April of 2014 and by October had 25 institutions on board. With many more in process and in view of the outstanding feedback we have received, I expect we can more than double this number in 2015. Lending is not getting any easier for community banks and credit unions, so it is logical that this offering will continue to grow in popularity.

In a short amount of time, the FIPG has done a great job demonstrating the benefits of a partnership and instilling confidence in Freedom Mortgage’s ability to deliver a cost effective and scalable mortgage solution to a tough audience: institutions for whom superb customer service is their stock in trade. It may sound simple calling it a “mortgage department in a box” solution, but there are a lot of moving parts requiring precision and great execution to make it a reality.

Q: This is a time when many community banks and credit unions are struggling with the regulatory burdens applied to residential lending. How does your offering help alleviate these burdens?

Stan Middleman: We have multiple models available to our partners, one of which is a co-branded solution that can help alleviate regulatory burdens. The cause for a great deal of the complexity and cost of residential lending these days is the regulatory burden. There is very little room for error in every aspect of a mortgage transaction, from the first borrower contact all the way through to investor delivery. Scrutiny is greater than ever, so the downside for community banks and credit unions continues to increase.

By partnering with Freedom Mortgage, our partners will have access to a unique model that will mitigate their risk, reduce their cost and allow them to focus on their core banking products.

Q: What is your prediction for community bank and credit union mortgage lending in 2015? Will we see more participants, or less?

Stan Middleman: I would say more borrowers will be turning to their community banks and credit unions because of the uncertainty in the market. Consumers want to feel comfortable in those relationships and are therefore more likely to talk to the credit unions that think of them as ‘members’ rather than as mere transactions. Community banks are famous for personalized service, which is exactly how they can succeed even when located on a corner opposite the megabank. They tend to raise the bar on service levels, and when they can offer mortgage products using a resource like Freedom’s FIPG, it is a win for them and for their customers.

It is important to understand what this means to Freedom Mortgage, also. We would not be as successful as we have been with this division if we lacked the same sense of customer sensitivity as the bank or credit union for whom we are providing the service. We must perform every bit as effectively and with the same service levels as the institutions we represent, and this is not easily accomplished. It requires can-do attitudes, high professionalism, superior expertise and great technology, all of which are integral to Freedom Mortgage’s core business values.

Freedom Mortgage is online at www.freedommortgage.com.

Holiday Gifts For The Housing Industry

Yes, it is that time of year again. And in the spirit of the holiday season, I gladly pull out my bag of goodies to distribute to the most significant, provocative and ridiculous participants in this year’s world of housing finance and mortgage banking. This year’s gift giving goes along these lines:

Edward Pinto and Stephen Oliner: A Gold Medal for Innovation. Incredibly, the year’s most innovative housing product was not introduced by a financial services company, but by a right-of-center Washington think tank. Pinto and Oliver are co-directors of the American Enterprise Institute’s International Center on Housing Risk, and their Wealth Building Home Loan is, hands down, the most exciting new product to be introduced in too many years. The loan is currently being tested in pilot programs with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America and Bank of America, and here’s hoping that the success of this product will finally spur lenders to begin plumbing the much-needed innovation that the industry has been hungering for since the dawn of Dodd-Frank.

The MBA Opens Doors Foundation: A Gold Medal for Philanthropic Outreach. This charitable arm of the Mortgage Bankers Association rarely gets the level of attention it deserves. And that is a major shame, because its mission – providing mortgage assistance for families with sick children – is not only serving a vital purpose in the lives of many homeowners, but it beautifully refutes the lies spread by the industry’s detractors that mortgage bankers are only interested in raking in money and kicking people out of their home.

Senator Elizabeth Warren: A Dunce Cap. Whether she’s launching surprise attacks on Mel Watt over principal reduction or pocketing $525,000 for a book in which she babbles about income inequality, the Massachusetts senator has gone out of her way to make a fool of herself without actually accomplishing anything that could be defined as a legislative triumph. Maybe next year she will finally do something of value. And here is an idea: perhaps Warren could recall her supposed tribal heritage by donating her extraordinary book advance to finance scholarships for the American Indian College Fund.

Extell Development: A Calendar and a GPS. Extell Development is the company behind a New York City luxury high-rise that, as per municipal guidelines, must have a certain number of affordable housing units. However, their building is being designed with a separate entrance for the resident of the affordable housing apartments – Extell thought it was disgusting to have lower income people occupying the same lobby and elevators as the building’s upper income residents. My suggested holiday gift may remind Extell that we are living in 2014 America and not in the France of Marie Antoinette.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: A Copy of its Original Mission Statement. What in the world has happened to HUD? In the half-century since its inception, HUD has gone off on bizarre tangents that include an annual “Reconnecting Families and Dad’s Program” (which has nothing to do with either housing or urban development), “Promise Zones” in areas that are not in need of federal funding (including Hollywood, of all places!) and an arm-twisting campaign to force providers of affordable housing to commit to the installation of expensive on-site renewable energy solutions on HUD-assisted multifamily housing. Meanwhile, affordable housing has evaporated in many major markets despite HUD’s worthless efforts to correct the problem, while the department’s leaders – along with the White House – have stubbornly refused to push for the expansion of the Fair Housing Act to protect gay and lesbian Americans that have no legal recourse to fight against housing discrimination in nearly half of the country. To be blunt, HUD is an embarrassment, and I am hard pressed to argue why it should be around for another 50 years.

Brandon Friedman: A Volunteer Job at a Veterans Hospital. Friedman is HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, and last spring he took to Twitter to question the sanity and honesty of U.S. military personnel that openly called into question the reasons behind the disappearance in Afghanistan of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Why was a HUD bureaucrat talking about this? Who knows, but his disgraceful badmouthing of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces was thoroughly inexcusable. The holiday gift chosen for him might serve as a reminder of the painful sacrifices that our nation’s military heroes have given in order to preserve the freedoms we often take for granted.

Cher: Membership in the Mortgage Bankers Association. Another bizarre Twitter rant involved the iconic singer and Oscar-winning actress, who took online aim at Zillow, of all things. Her October 15 stated, “#CHINA IS ON REAL ESTATE BUYING SPREE ALL OVER USA. #ZILLOW Has Agreed 2Make Their Listings Available 2 CHINESE CONSUMERS. BOYCOTT #ZILLOW.” I am not certain whether Cher is angry at China, at Chinese investors in U.S. real estate, or in Zillow for listing properties that Chinese consumers may want to consider. In any event, maybe Cher can take a break from her concert gigs and allow Dave Stevens and his team to offer a crash course on how the real estate finance industry works.

Yes, it has been an interesting year. And I would like to take this moment to thank this column’s readers for their continued support and input. I am taking the next two weeks for a holiday break, and I hope to reconnect with everyone in 2015!

About The Author

[author_bio]

Ebola And Housing

A handful of Americans have contracted a terrible disease. Tens of thousands of Americans have been prevented from gaining access to homeownership. One story has been the obsessive focus of the mainstream media for the past few weeks, and the other has been all but ignored by the same media outlets.

I’m not saying that the arrival of Ebola on this side of the Atlantic is not newsworthy, but there is a very big difference between mature coverage of a developing story and a manic obsession that becomes numbing for an audience to absorb. There is also a very big difference between underreporting a significant story and refusing to devote any attention to a situation that is beginning to have a damaging impact on the nation’s socio-economic structure.

But this is not just a “blame the media for doing a crummy job” rant. After all, the media – not unlike any audience-seeking entity – plays to the tastes of its target market. If TV news programs, website and newspapers (and, yes, there are still newspapers out there) continue to attract audiences, it is because they are responding to a certain type of coverage and focus, not to mention a distinctive delivery style. Forcing something that is different – let alone complex – into the equation creates a news story that is difficult for many people to accept.

Or, at least that is the accepted opinion of the media industry. In reality, it is a shabby excuse to allow the media to pretend certain stories don’t exist. This is not acceptable.

The Ebola story is a very easy story to present: a weird and obscure disease from a distant continent begins to infect people in this country. Naturally, there is a fear factor attached to this story: since relatively little is known in this country about Ebola, a panic erupts on how it might be transmitted. Throw in a bungling federal health agency that inspires no confidence with its assurances of an under-control situation and this becomes a news item that can be repeated and enhanced infinitely.

The state of housing is a completely different matter. It lacks the neatness of the us-versus-it battle lines of how the public is facing the Ebola situation – in the case of housing, there are too many players in the public and private sectors, along with a large chorus of loud pundits and advocates who are too willing to offer their opinions on who is to blame. There is no clearly defined villain, unless you subscribe to the notion that all bankers or mortgage brokers are in league with the devil.

The housing crisis is not a problem that can be easily disinfected by a team of health workers wearing Hazmat suits. Laws and regulations put into place over the past four years that were designed to ensure the safety and stability of the housing market have created the opposite effect – rather than locking out the sketchy players that drove the economy into shambles in the previous decade, these new mandates have instead locked out creditworthy people from being able to secure a home loan.

Even worse, today’s new classes of college graduates are burdened with extraordinary debt tied to their student loans. This debt cannot be easily whittled away, due in large part to a miserable job market that offers little except for ultra-low-paying opportunities, mostly of the part-time nature.

And for those that are somehow able to jump through the proverbial hoops and emerge with limited or no debt, the ability to access a mortgage is now much more expensive than it was in previous years. That is because lenders are finding themselves financially squeezed by the ridiculously heavy amount of compliance requirements placed on their operations, and the only way they can try to maintain some kind of profit is by passing the extra costs along to their customers. Is anyone surprised that more and more people are opting to rent, even though rental costs are also at new highs?

In a sane world, one might assume that a savvy developer or a vote-seeking politician would make an extra push for new housing developments that stress borrower affordability. But, as a casual glimpse out the window will affirm, this is not a sane world. Indeed, markets where affordable housing is needed the most tend to be the ones where they are least available. It is not surprise that most major American cities are turning into mini-versions of Dubai, with a glut of luxury housing at the expense of the low- and middle-income people that are needed to make the economy function.

Yes, it is depressing, and it will be even more depressing if this situation is not addressed with a new degree of urgency. Perhaps it is time for the members of the housing industry and the mortgage space to start challenging the mainstream media to give this the same degree of urgency as it gives the Ebola story. And the story needs to be told with honesty and maturity, and not in the ridiculous manner of the post-2008 period when blame was dumped indiscriminately on lenders while other parties were immediately absolved of their recklessness.

How do you tell the media to do a better job? Simple: letters to the editor, phone calls, emails, social media postings, op-ed columns, and a proactive effort to get quoted by business reporters on the occasional stories about housing that somehow get aired.

The challenges facing the housing market today have a huge impact on many, many people. It is incumbent upon industry professionals to ensure this story is properly reported.

About The Author

[author_bio]