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Five Questions for Dale Stinton, CEO, National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Later this year, Dale A. Stinton will mark 10 years at the helm of the NAR, America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1 million residential and commercial real estate professionals. Over a decade that saw some turbulence for the industry, Stinton stayed the course and earned accolades including, most recently, being named in 2011, 2012 and 2013 by Inman News as one of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders. Also in 2012, Stinton was honored by the American Business Awards as CEO of the Year in the real estate category. Stefan Swanepoel’s 2015 Trends Report ranked Stinton the sixth most influential player in real estate.

As government entities join private organizations in addressing the U.S. housing market’s recovery, Stinton graciously took time to field questions from The Score.

How do you feel about the administration’s recent focus on stimulating the U.S. housing market? Are the measures proving effective? What would be your top “ask” of the administration (or Congress)?

A strong and sustainable real estate market is an essential component of a strong national economy. As the voice of real estate, NAR works actively to promote and protect the ability of qualified Americans to buy, sell and invest in private property ownership and welcomes efforts by Congress and the administration to further strengthen that ability for the American people. There are a number of priority issues that our members will bring to Congress and the regulatory agencies later this spring during our 2015 Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. While we applaud measures taken by the administration and Congress to stabilize homeownership, there continue to be threats and challenges that require vigilance. These threats include tax reform and their implications to homeownership and real estate investment tax policies, the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the preservation of the FHA single-family mortgage insurance program, and continuous and ongoing federal regulations governing lending policy. Our ask is that the administration and Congress be mindful of the need to ensure the U.S. real estate market is fundamentally sound and robust and that the business interests of the real estate industry and the consumers they serve are protected when introducing federal legislation and regulations impacting homeownership and real estate.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHFA are exploring policy reforms, including updating the credit-score requirements they’ve had in place for more than a decade to allow up-to-date models, such as VantageScore 3.0, that score many more consumers. Do you believe mortgage access will be a major factor in fueling a housing recovery? 

Absolutely. The average successful mortgage applicant’s credit score remains well above the historic average. While FHFA and the GSEs have made modifications to provide access to low-down-payment loans, lenders have restricted that access to only the most pristine borrowers, rather than making sustainable loans broadly available. REALTORS® welcome more up-to-date credit scoring models. They will ultimately make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans. Our members do understand that for consumers to see any benefit, however, lenders have to adopt the new scoring techniques. In the past, mortgage lenders have been slower to adopt new scores because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still used older models in their own underwriting software. NAR has continued to urge FHFA and the GSEs to expand the use of other credit score models such as VantageScore. These models can be advantageous to potential buyers without considerable credit card balances or car loan debt, helping first-time buyers achieve homeownership.

Which property classes or categories (e.g., condos, starter homes, second homes, luxury properties, over-55 communities, etc.) are recovering fastest? Which categories would you most like to see improve?

Home sales growth has been strong at the middle and upper price points, while low available inventories have constrained the entry level. The entry-level market will remain constrained until nascent inventory arrives and credit overlays relax to allow in more buyers. Financing for condos via the FHA and second homes in flood prone areas remain a headwind that we are focused on. The luxury market has picked up nicely over the last year to two years as financing options and inventories are healthy.

What are you seeing in terms of regional trends in America’s single-family home market? What areas of the country are showing the strongest recovery, and where is there the greatest lag?

The housing recovery has been broad based, with prices and sales volumes improving in most parts of the country. Recent weather has made transactions more difficult in the Northeast and the judicial foreclosure process in some states has constrained inventories and price growth in those areas. Though it hasn’t come to fruition yet, the drop in oil prices could impact areas in Texas and Oklahoma, though these impacts would be highly localized. Overall, foot traffic and contract trends suggest a strong spring market.

What do you think the biggest misconception is that people have about REALTORS® and today’s real estate market? Can you set the record straight?

A common myth is that the wealth of real estate information available online is making REALTORS® obsolete. The truth is that even as Internet usage hits an all-time high, homebuyers are more likely than ever to use a REALTOR®; nine in 10 recent buyers purchased their home through a REALTOR®, a share that has steadily increased from 69 percent in 2001. A myth about the real estate market is that millennials or first-time buyers are delaying their home purchase until later in life. In fact, today’s millennials are embracing the American Dream at nearly the same age as their parents’ generation; NAR research shows the median age of first-time buyers has been 31 for the past three years, and it’s been either 30 or 31 for most years since 1981.

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