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New laws will help homebuyers

Q: I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how you think all these new laws and plans coming from President Obama and Congress will help homeowners here in Las Vegas? I’m especially interested in your take on the government’s plan to fix the foreclosure problem and help people buy or stay in their homes. — Mindy G., Las Vegas

A: These are tough questions. Before I go into some of the details, let me just say that we really don’t yet know how much help these governmental efforts will be to homeowners here in Southern Nevada.

But I’d say that it’s better than nothing.

Speaking on behalf of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, I can tell you that our members locally and nationally generally support these recent efforts by the federal government.

Let’s look at two of the more prominent examples: President Obama’s $75 billion Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan and the newly enacted $8,000 tax credit being offered to first-time homebuyers.

First of all, like Realtors across the country, the GLVAR supports this $8,000 tax credit — even though we lobbied to make it larger and to offer it to all homebuyers, not just first-time buyers.

But given today’s challenging housing market, I think such incentives can only help stimulate home sales — and the overall economy.

This is especially true here in Southern Nevada, where we have one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates and where more of our homeowners are “upside down” in their mortgages than in almost any other part of the country.

Secondly, we’ve been hearing a lot lately about the Obama administration’s plan to help millions of homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes. The National Association of Realtors has commended President Obama for addressing the foreclosure crisis we’re facing nationwide. As NAR officials have pointed out, addressing the foreclosure problem is crucial to helping the overall American economy rebound.

“When people lose homes to foreclosure, our communities, the housing market and our economy all suffer,” said NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“The administration’s proposed plan, combined with provisions like the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit in the just-enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will help minimize foreclosures, shrink housing inventory, stabilize home values and move the country closer to an economic recovery.”

According to NAR, this Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan would help struggling homeowners by providing incentives to lenders, servicers, mortgage holders and borrowers to help modify mortgage loans.

The U.S. Treasury Department is tasked with issuing uniform guidelines outlining how this will be accomplished. Consistent with NAR’s recommendations, financial institutions receiving assistance must agree to follow these guidelines.

Under another element of this program, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will help make monthly payments more affordable for 4 to 5 million homeowners by refinancing mortgages with loans that these entities own or guarantee.

Finally, the plan provides more support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which should in turn help keep mortgage rates low for all buyers. This could lead to even lower interest rates. And that certainly helps homebuyers.

Late last year, NAR called for improved foreclosure mitigation as part of its overall housing recovery plan. So, Realtors welcome this initiative. The association also supports President Obama’s efforts to reduce mortgage payments for millions of Americans, avoiding financial crises for families and communities.

Realtors pride themselves on building communities, not just helping people buy and sell homes. So now more than ever, we’re doing all we can to work with local and national governments to help our neighbors in need.

For more information on these issues, visit lasvegasrealtor.com, or realtor.com.

Sue Naumann is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has worked in the real estate industry for nearly 30 years. GLVAR has more than 14,000 members. To ask her a question, e-mail her at ask@glvar.org. For more information, visit lasvegasrealtor.com.

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