Market uncertainty is keeping buyers and sellers on the sidelines, making it necessary for politicians to adopt a clear strategy for stabilizing home prices, said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move Inc., the company that operates Realtor.com.
“I believe the most important thing that could happen in a housing market would be for the consumer to have a sense of confidence that prices are not going to decline,” Berkowitz said. “They don’t have to go up again, but I’d like to see a policy that talks about how I am going to fix some of the big uncertainties.”
Doing this would require policymakers to take clear positions on issues like the mortgage deduction, as well as the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing finance space, he added.
Berkowitz also believes it would be helpful for Americans in leadership positions to stabilize the market not by focusing on “extreme cases of unfairness, but by focusing on the broader issues to bring stability and clarity to the market.”
Berkowitz made these suggestions while attending the National Association of Realtors Legislative Meeting & Expo in Washington, D.C.
But he has yet to find a politician with a solid housing plan, but a broad, decent plan would be a major boon for the market, he contends.
“Anything that creates uncertainty will slow the housing recovery,” Berkowitz told HousingWire. “The challenge — whether it’s Dodd-Frank or a mortgage settlement — is that people want clarity and with clarity comes the reality of what to do.”
He noted that real estate agents this week are convening at the Washington Monument, with about 5,000 to 10,000 real estate professionals on hand for the rally to communicate the importance of a firm homeownership policy. Berkowitz wants a broad policy plan that all homeowners and Americans can get behind.
Berkowitz maintains some optimism about the future of the market.
“There is a feeling that housing is at its best affordability level in the last 10 years,” he said. “The Realtors feel pretty good about the affordability index. They feel mortgage rates have never been better in their lifetimes, but it’s difficult to get a mortgage.”
Berkowitz said agents also continue to struggle with the functioning of appraisals in the marketplace. “They see deals that end up not getting closed because the appraisals are not coming in at the right value,” he said.
Still, with all real estate being local, there are some markets still riddled with foreclosures while other markets see prices firming up.
Even though renting picked up in the past few years, Berkowitz believes buying real estate will become the trend again. “What you are going to see is a middle ground.”