Since the market downturn several years ago lawmakers in Washington have been talking about reforming the secondary mortgage market but nothing has come out of Congress yet. This year, though, a lot of progress is expected to be made toward reform, so it will be especially important for real estate brokers and sales associates to stay engaged in what’s happening, particularly this spring.
Although we’re still waiting for legislation to come out, lawmakers have been working on the issue quite a bit. Four bills have been introduced that would take a comprehensive approach to reform, including a bill by Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) that very closely matches up with NAR’s priority, which is to encourage private investors to return to the secondary market while replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with an entity that continues to back conforming loans but as a nonprofit, not as a for-profit company.
NAR wants the federal government to keep a presence in the market out of a concern that mortgages remain available and affordable even in bad markets, when it’s too risky or not profitable enough for purely private participants to be counted on.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) also has a bill out that matches up with NAR aims in many respects, and the association is working with the senator and his staff to refine his approach this spring. In a key point about his bill, it would define conforming loans as those that are based on sound underwriting, not on the amount of downpayment.
That’s important, because banking regulators have drafted Wall Street reform rules that would define conforming loans—what they call qualified residential mortgages (QRM)—as those that meet minimum downpayment requirements and other standards. NAR and others have been vocal about how bad that would be for the market, and the Isakson bill would address that.
In addition to these and a couple of other comprehensive reform bills, lawmakers have introduced 19 other bills that look at specific aspects of reform. NAR has never come out in support of any of these single-issue bills because it wants reform to be comprehensive, not piecemeal. All of the aims of these many bills will get looked at and, as NAR would like to see it, folded into a comprehensive bill where that makes sense.
So, a lot will be going on in the next few months, and NAR members can expct to hear more shortly. But whether all of this activity results in a single bill for a vote this year is uncertain. For one thing, starting around summer lawmakers will begin focusing on the upcoming national elections, so that could mean putting off a big vote like this until 2013, when the dust from the elections has settled.
But that’s all the more reason NAR members have to be engaged now. Because even if legislation takes until 2013 to pass, key decisions could be made in the next few months.
You can learn more about what to expect on reform in the 6-minute video with NAR analyst Tony Hutchinson.