For the past four years Bruce Norris, founder of The Norris Group has presented a forum entitled ‘I Survived Real Estate (2011)’ at the Richard Nixon Library. The event, attracting more than 400 real estate and investment leaders from California and beyond, is both an informational evening with panels discussing real estate trends, as well as a fund raiser for The Susan G. Komen Foundation. As a fundraiser the event has been singularly successful, raising over $250,000 for breast cancer research during the past four years. This year’s event was especially poignant as Bruce lost his own wife to the disease earlier this year after a courageous seven year battle.
Norris has over 30 years of real estate experience and more than 2,000 real estate transactions as a buyer, seller, builder and capitol partner. He is an award winning author, hosts a weekly radio program, is a frequent speaker throughout the state and is the founder of The Norris Group, one of the premier real estate investment resources in California. The ‘I Survived Real Estate’ event brings together a number of industry leaders to discuss their often disparate views of the housing industry and answer questions posed by Norris.
This year’s panel included Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan, Foreclosure Radar President Sean O’Toole, National Association of Realtors First Vice President Gary Thomas, Chair-elect of the Mortgage Bankers Association Debra Still, President-elect of the Appraisal Institute Sara Stephens and iTulip Founder Eric Janszen.
Duncan, recently named one of the nation’s top four most accurate economists by the Wall Street Journal, discussed the future of his organization in light of President Obama’s call to eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within the decade. Duncan believes this will be a positive step forward as a way to minimize the government’s role in the housing industry and promote private industry’s participation in the market.
This has been a very controversial position as Fannie, Freddie and the FHA, currently underwrite more than 90% of mortgage loans on the market today. Many would argue that there would not be a mortgage market without them. Duncan acknowledged the validity of this claim but offered that the gradual phase-out as called for by the administration will allow alternative financing methods to be developed and that negative impact to the market would be minimal.
Thomas, in line to be the President of the National Association of Realtors in 2013 indicated the industry is very concerned with the plan, or lack there-of. “Without Fannie & Freddie in place there would not have been a mortgage written since 2007,” according to Thomas. “Private lenders are risk averse right now as a result of getting burned by their own exotic inventions during the early part of the decade and stepped away from the market at a time we needed them most. NAR will work very aggressively to make sure whatever programs remain in place are in the best interest of the American consumer.”
The panel also addressed concerns over the massive bail-outs orchestrated by the federal government and their impact on the economy. Janszen, a long-time financial and economic market analyst, added ‘there is really no consensus on the efficacy of the programs’, noting that many believed the programs were little more than ‘print and pray’ exercises with our money. Duncan and Still took some exception to that characterization pointing out that at the very least the programs helped stabilize a rapidly declining market and that much of what was loaned to banks as ‘bail-out’ has been repaid with interest.
Legislation and the global economy figured prominently in the evening’s discussion with Duncan concluding that ‘the likelihood of Greece defaulting on its obligations today is 100%.’ “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ they will default, it’s simply a matter of ‘when’. The only questions is will it be done in an orderly manner which will allow the European economy to hit the bump and continue on, or if it’s done chaotically which will likely result in another worldwide recession.”
O’Toole, whose Foreclosure Radar website is considered to be the pinnacle of information on future trends in the distressed property market, drew some of the evening’s loudest applause when he called on banks to step up their efforts to take back properties and clear out the backlog. “Is it fair for you and I to keep making payments on our home, whether underwater or not, when the family next door can live there without making a payment for a year or two or three? And, face it, many of them just made bad decisions and should not have been in those homes to begin with. They knew it, their lenders knew it and now we all know it but the problem keeps dragging on. Until that backlog of non-performing loans is cleared off the books, banks can’t move forward. And until we get all these homes back into the hands of real home-owners or investors and renters, the market cannot stabilize.”
For more information on The Norris Group and to hear the more than 7 hours of interviews and commentary by this year’s panel, please visit http://www.thenorrisgroup.com/.