We have long held the machinations of The National Association of Realtors (NAR) up to some ridicule. As many will note, we ignore every NAR data release due to the fact that it is certified guesswork (at best) as per the massive periodic revisions that just so happen wipe out all prior year gains. We also suspect a darker side, as the NAR, courtesy of its anti money-laundering exemption, is simply a middleman allowed to close its eyes as dirty money is ferried into the US and specifically its real estate market. But former Fannie Mae chief credit officer Ed Pinto digs a little deeper into the real driver behind the NAR. For 90 years the NAR (and its predecessor organization) has supported expanding the government’s role in housing finance. Today, the government guarantees upwards of 90 percent of all new mortgages. It is easy to reconcile the NAR’s interest in home ownership and its support for the expansion of the government’s role in housing finance. In Ed's research he has not come across a single instance where the NAR has stated that lending standards should be tightened. To the contrary the NAR has almost always called for loosened lending standards and continued or increased government involvement, no matter the market conditions.
FHA insured loans have been a big booster for the current market. Historically FHA insured loans made up roughly 8 to 12 percent of all mortgage originations but in 2009 they hit 30 percent. For first time home buyers it was a stunning 50 percent showing that most people can only purchase a home today with a very small down payment. Yet small down payments create instant negative equity positions if the market moves sideways or pops lower (aka our current market). For example, the 3.5 percent standard FHA down payment is wiped away by the 5 to 6 percent selling costs. What is interesting with this is that the FHA insured loan market is fully backed by the government (i.e., you) so any losses will be completely shouldered by the public.
During my tenure as Fannie Mae’s senior vice president for marketing, I warned NPA that any effort by Fannie Mae to launch a massive national affordable housing program would be as disastrous for homebuyers and neighborhoods as FHA’s failed efforts were in the 1960s and 1970s.