|Throughout 2010, NAR made significant progress educating Congress and the Obama Administration that a stable and sustainable housing market is the primary building block for any economic recovery. NAR had a series of successes in the regulatory and legislative fields, some of which are highlighted below.
As we look ahead to 2011, NAR will continue to advocate policy initiatives that benefit REALTORS® and consumers in the residential and commercial real estate industry.
PROTECTING REALTORS®’ BUSINESS INTERESTS AND ACTIVITIES
Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection – On July 21, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010. This comprehensive reform of the nation’s financial services sector is the most sweeping since the financial reforms ushered in during the Great Depression. NAR worked with both Democrat and Republican members of the House and Senate committees responsible for the legislation to secure a “real estate professional exclusion” ensuring that the daily business of REALTORS® was not negatively impacted by this historic piece of legislation.
Me etings with Lenders – Starting in the summer of 2010, NAR’s elected leadership initiated a series of meetings with large lenders and servicers to discuss issues of concern for REALTORS®. The topics included origination issues (underwriting standards, appraisal issues, credit policy, condo financing); short sales; bank-owned properties; and the impact of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act. NAR and the banks are discussing how we can work together to make significant improvements in all of these areas. The goal is to increase our mutual success and help support market recovery.
Health Insurance Reform – NAR successfully raised the profile of the challenges that face the self-employed and small employers, including REALTORS®, throughout the 111th Congress’ debate over health care reform. As a result, the underwriting and rating reforms in the final bill — guaranteed issue policies, ban on pre-existing condition exclusions, limited age rating, etc. — are in line with NAR’s policy principles and will give the self-employed access to insurance with most of the characteristics of a group plan. In addition, individual affordability credits and tax credits for small employers will help to make health insurance more affordable for many NAR members who are currently uninsured.
SUSTAINING HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES
First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit – In November 2009, the $8,000 credit was again extended for purchasers through April 30, 2010. Those under contract by April 30 retained eligibility for the credit, so long as the transaction closed before July 1, 2010. An additional $6,500 credit was created for current homeowners purchasing a new or existing home between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010. These buyers were also subjected to the July 1, 2010 settlement requirement. In June 2010, NAR noticed that many purchasers who had signed contracts on or before April 30 were unable to close their transactions, particularly in short sales. At NAR’s urging, Congress extended the closing date requirement through September 30, 2010.
Protecting the Mortgage Interest Deduction – The Administration’s proposed budgets for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 included a recommendation that health insurance reform be “paid for” by limiting the value of the mortgage interest deduction (MID) and other itemized deductions for upper income taxpayers. The limitation proposal was based on an individual’s tax bracket. Itemized deductions for individuals in tax brackets above 28% would have not have received the value of their higher tax brackets. Rather, the “value” of itemized deductions would have been limited to 28 cents on the dollar, rather than the 33 cents or 35 cents to which they would have otherwise been entitled. NAR aggressively and successfully fought off changes to the MID through grassroots, advertising and similar advocacy tools.
FHA and GSE Loan Limits – NAR successfully advocated for legislation to once again extend the temporary higher loan limits for FHA and the GSEs in both 2009 and 2010. Had the limits expired, NAR estimates that more than 612 counties in 40 states and the District of Columbia would be negatively impacted, with an average decline in loan limits of more than $50,000. The current limits (at the greater of $271,050 [for FHA] and $417,000 [for the GSEs] or 125% of local area median up to $729,750) are now in place through September 30, 2011.
SUSTAINING COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE OPPORTUNITIES
Small Business Lending Fund – On September 27, 2010, the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) was signed into law. Under this bill, which NAR supported, the U.S. Treasury is authorized to lend up to $30 billion to interested community banks to further expand lending to small businesses. As an incentive for community banks to participate and increase small business lending, participating banks’ interest rates will be adjusted relative to the amount of their small business lending activity. It is estimated that community banks could use the $30 billion lending fund to leverage up to $300 billion in new loans to small businesses. Additionally, NAR successfully worked to include provisions in the legislation that enhance Small Business Administration (SBA) programs and provide $12 billion in tax relief for commercial real estate practitioners and small businesses.
ELIMINATING BARRIERS TO CREDIT
Flood Insurance – NAR secured a full one-year extension through September 2011 of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) authority, after supporting legislation, which twice broke congressional stalemates that led to multi-week shutdowns of the program. Without the program, thousands of property owners in tens of thousands of communities across the U.S. would not have been able to obtain the insurance necessary for them to obtain a mortgage in federal-designated floodplains.
Development of NAR Credit Policy – The Conventional Finance and Lending Committee proposed a NAR Credit Policy for consideration by the Board of Directors in November 2010 which was approved. The new policy calls for the lending industry to reassess and amend its credit policies to increase mortgage liquidity for qualified home buyers, including low and moderate-income families and first-time home buyers. The policy also includes specific recommendations.
Appraisal Reform – On July 21, 2010, the President signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act. The legislation includes the first major appraisal reforms in more than a generation. NAR worked with Congress on this legislation, which regulates appraisal management companies (AMCs), establishes new appraisal independence standards, and regulates automated valuation models (AVMs) and broker price opinions (BPOs). The legislation also sunsets the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). NAR is currently working with the Federal Reserve on the implementation of regulations related to appraisal independence, which must be implemented within 90 days of enactment of the legislation.