Mortgage Professionals Should be Optimistic About the Future

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14 | Th e M Rep o RT cover story homebuyers and homeowners may be too afraid to catch what waves do exist. "Consumers have a great deal of data available to them today as compared to a generation ago, but there's a lot of news out there," Petkovski explained. "I think it's dif- ficult for consumers to make sense of all of the information in the way it's currently being presented." Negative housing headlines continued to surface in the final month of 2014, which also is the same month in which a slew of more positive articles hit the media. at one point pub- lished an article with the headline "Getting a mortgage is about to get easier." The article arrived not long after The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets covered news of a report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York charting how new mortgage lending had fallen to a 13-year low. Potential homeowners may assume that the stories contradict each other. However, they might also view them together as an example of cause and effect at play: the good news posited in the CNN story could be describing the industry's positive response to the gloom outlined in The Wall Street Journal article. It's all in how you read the tea leaves. The same can be said about the story. Looking at the headline, readers could easily believe it to be another in a long line of "the-housing-market-is- back-but-I'm-not-buying-it" media reports. Only after closer examina- tion does it become clear that the story presents its rosy picture of the Pennsylvania housing market, exclusively sourced by upbeat real estate and mortgage experts. Unfortunately, it's easy to see pessimism in the headline since it's not very clear that the story is simply part of a series on the state and local economy called "Are we better off?" Six years after the mortgage- lending meltdown, lenders trying to sell mortgages or catch new custom- ers continue to battle what seem like wildly divergent views from the media and marketplace about the state of mortgage lending and hous- ing. More confusing still: it's often regulators, real estate agents, and lenders who supply the information that fuels media reports. Unfortunately, consumers look- ing for clarity are hard pressed to find any. "I think the media is inclined to cover the bad news in the housing market," noted Daren Blomquist, VP of RealtyTrac. "The bad news usu- ally rises to the top of the page." For instance, a Dec. 4 story in Reverse Mortgage Daily opened with the line: "Despite a slow and ongo- ing recovery from the boom and bust of the housing market, con- sumers are optimistic about what 2015 has to bring." Only to offer in the next sentence what seems like a dire warning—"Beware: Barriers remain for homebuyers." And for self-employed potential homeowners, Fox Business offered this grim admonition based on data from the real estate website Zillow: "Mortgage lenders tough on self-employed." Media focus on constrained lend- ing has had an effect on the psychol- ogy of potential homebuyers, even though the exact impact is difficult to quantify in monetary terms, say mortgage industry professionals. "The characterization of tight lending standards may be keeping some potential homebuyers on the sidelines," noted Vickee Adams, VP of external communications at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. "Consumers have a lot of mis- conceptions about the homebuying process," Adams added. "Many people said they are still very much interested in purchasing a home, but they have misconceptions about the process, especially when it comes to qualifying for a home." Lost in the discussion, Adams noted, is the availability of Federal Housing Administration loans with lower down payment requirements, along with such mortgage options as the jumbo loan, which is an integral tool in higher-priced real estate markets. Blomquist agrees that talk of higher lending standards may have spooked some consumers unnecessarily. "You hear the horror stories of people not being able to get a loan," he noted. Yet, he says, "there are millions of people who are still qualifying for loans this year." But Blomquist doesn't blame the media solely for spreading paranoia about lending. The mort- gage industry also openly voiced its frustrations with new lending guidelines, possibly creating a false perception that fewer options exist for borrowers, he notes. As far as having to have 20 per- cent down when you buy, Blomquist says this is a market myth. "The average down payment we are seeing, looking at the price and loan amount, is a little over 10 percent," he explained. Blomquist believes the real estate industry itself has adopted the narrative that home sales are down because lending standards are just too tight. But by doing so, the industry is adversely affecting its own base of potential buyers. "I think the real estate indus- try is pushing out that message because they want to encourage lending standards to get looser so more people can buy," he ex- plained. "But unintentionally they may be poisoning the well. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy." When buyers hear the industry continually complain about con- strained lending standards, they may end up thinking, "I am not even going to try," he says. And this leaves consumers won- dering whether it's truly bad out there, or if it's really improving. "I think it's somewhere in the middle, with a slight leaning towards the positive," explained Petkovski. "As a consumer myself, I feel like the housing market is healthier today than it has been in a while, but market health is still measured on a mi- cro scale, so locational influences still remain the primary driving force of value potential." Blomquist believes there are two sides to the same coin—and neither the housing pessimists nor optimists own the truth in the media. "Consumers have a great deal of data available to them today as compared to a generation ago, but there's a lot of news out there. I think it's difficult for consumers to make sense of all of the information in the way it's currently being presented." — Jordan Petkovski, TSI Appraisal.

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