Thursday, June 28, 2012

Will the Foreclosure Crisis be With Us Another Two Years?

Marietta Rodriguez
By Marietta Rodriguez
Director, National
Programs & Lending

With signs of a turnaround in housing appearing in various industry reports such as those from the National Association of Realtors for pending home sales, and from the National Association of Home Builders via its new home sales index, it’s not difficult to think that the foreclosure crisis is behind us. But it isn’t.

Recently I was on a panel at the National Association of Real Estate Editors spring meeting discussing the housing market alongside representatives from Bank of America and FNC, Inc., and we agreed that the foreclosure crisis won’t end for another two years – according to the most positive forecasts.

Mortgage rates are likely to remain very low for the foreseeable future and that’s good for housing and for ending the foreclosure crisis. However, what we really need to do in order to find the end more quickly is make it easier for qualified buyers to purchase homes and for homeowners in distress to find solutions that don’t end in foreclosure.

Neighborhood Housing Service of
South Florida educates a potential homebuyer
On the purchase side, NeighborWorks America supports efforts to make homeownership as accessible as possible without creating undue risk in the system. We support the availability of low down payment mortgages which enable homebuyers who are already saving to purchase a home more quickly. Additionally, we support underwriting that keep loans within the reach of deserving buyers. Finally, we think that homebuyer education is a critical piece of the process. Education is what prepares people for the true costs of homeownership, and helps them make sustainable choices.

Family outside their home
in Great Falls, Montana
On the foreclosure front, we’ve established partnerships that connect homeowners to the help that they need to find an alternative to foreclosure. For example, by partnering with local governments we are able to direct our efforts into neighborhoods that are at the greatest risk of foreclosures, and making those resident aware of options for assistance. We are also facilitating better homeowner communication with servicers through the HOPE Loan Port, which tracks individual requests for loan modifications. Servicer outreach centers are another key tool for stemming foreclosure, because they allow homebuyers to receive in-person advice on how they might keep their home. However, as I told the audience at the National Association of Real Estate Editors conference, all servicers could do more.

The housing market won’t rebound until the foreclosure crisis is behind us. However, by improving the availability of mortgage credit and homebuyer education, we can minimize the impacts of the crisis and make sure it ends within two years.