As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, May 2011.
The U.S. housing market has undergone such a fundamental shift in the past few years that until you actually look at the numbers, you might not really comprehend just how much it's changed.
We all know that home prices have dropped significantly, but think about this: This past February, the median sale price for U.S homes was $156,100 — its lowest level in almost nine years, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Also in February, according to the Realtors group, almost 40 percent of U.S. home sales were either foreclosures or short sales — and one-third of existing-home sales involved cash buyers. Although it doesn't keep track of who's making these all-cash purchases, the association has said that most of these buyers are investors.
And with the continued high volume of underwater homeowners and distressed properties, bargain prices likely will continue to attract property investors who are looking either to fix and flip properties or who are patient enough to wait it out and sell when the market starts to brighten a bit more.
Not all these buyers will be investors flush with cash, and that's where you come in. Brokers can help these investors, as well as homebuyers looking for a new residence, take advantage of today's low prices and point them to programs that can help. When they're buying a distressed property, you also can help them understand potential risks. In fact, as Manuel V. Sicre points out in this month's Scotsman Guide, some buyers may turn a blind eye to the risks because of the bargain prices and hopes of a profit when they sell.
Capitalize on your expertise — real estate financing — and educate your clients on the programs available to help them buy and sell their homes when they're in dire straits. The Obama administration's Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program is one you should know about. Greenway Capital Management's Ray Williams discusses the basics of HAFA in his article this month, while Rich Leffler of Professional Mortgage Consulting presents ways short sales expand opportunities for investors and how you can tap this market.
Finally, there's a lot of information out there about the housing market that your clients and prospects are exposed to daily. You might have to dispel some myths and educate them on the realities of the market and their individual situations. But don't discount the information and data available. As Frédéric Guitton of activSalesAgent writes, you can use it to your advantage: Provide the best information you can and educate potential borrowers. Make yourself a resource on whom they'll count for years to come.
If you do that, you'll not only build your business, but you'll also help rebuild the real estate market and prove that mortgage brokers are an important and necessary part of the housing-finance system.