Hallelujah for the Real Estate Revival

How faith is being restored in America’s housing market and mortgage industry.

Ten years ago before the big crash, people had faith in the U.S. housing market – real estate was a “safe” investment, property values would always increase over time, and if you needed a little financial help your home equity was always there to carry you through if times got tough.Threat of foreclosure

Then the bottom fell out in 2008 and we all questioned those tenants that we had taken as fact. The crash precipitated the largest economic downturn since the great depression and left millions of homeowners wondering why they’d placed so much faith in what seemed to be just another potentially risky investment. People’s asset salvation suddenly became their financial damnation.

Still, much like any faith, belief in real estate can be restored and regained.  And that’s exactly what’s happened since the crash. Now seven years later, as I sat down to talk about continuing efforts to help homeowners still struggling to regain stability with former Consolidated Credit Housing Director Joseph Cvelbar, it struck me how much the discussion of the housing market recovery reminded me of big-tent revivals in evangelism and religious revival.

Even in real estate, it seems sometimes all you need is a little time and a little faith to recapture that tenacious spirit that was lost…

Come down to the tent and be saved

Come down to the tent and be saved

The first part of my interview with Cvelbar that harkened back to my Southern Baptist roots came when we started talking about the Save My Home events that are still going on now seven years after the crash.

I wanted to know how events today differed from those held right after the crash. Cvelbar had this to say…

“In the past at the height of the recession, attendance at events like these was well in excess of 1,000 people – at some events as many as 2,000 distressed homeowners would come in looking for help. Banks and loan servicers would fly in teams of people – up to 40-50 representatives and underwriter at a time with their equipment for these roadshows. It was impressive to see such massive setups all meant to help those homeowners recover.” 

Now events are smaller – usually about 300-400 homeowners come to events like the one we were discussing, sponsored by an organization called HOPE NOW – yes, even the name of the nonprofit that spearheads the event calls to restoring people’s faith.

And while the events may not be as massive as they were in the past, the fact remains that homeowners come to be saved. The events bring loan servicers, underwriters and HUD-certified housing counselors all together at one site to help distressed homeowners find their path to real estate salvation. Through programs like HAMP, HARP and state-run Hardest Hit Funds, homeowners can overcome all of those housing evils, like negative equity and subprime adjustable rate mortgages – you know, that snake in the garden that tempted so many to fall.

HUD-certified missionaries continue to spread the word

Eventually, Cvelbar believes that even small events like the ones being held now will taper off and the work of saving homeowners will fall solely on the shoulders of HUD’s chosen missionaries – nonprofit housing counselors.

“HAMP is going to exist through the end of 2016 and there’s been some discussion with the Treasury of extending it. However, even if the need continues to decrease and HAMP isn’t extended a third time, programs like Hardest Hit Funds may still be available. We may see things go to a strictly one-on-one basis where a distress homeowner can go through a housing counselor to find assistance.”

So if you’re a homeowner who hasn’t taken advantage of options to refinance or adjust the principal on your mortgage, there’s still time to wash away whatever real estate sins (yours or your lender’s) that got you into trouble in the first place.

Born-again first-time homebuyers

Another tie to holy-roller revival came up when we chatted about programs available to help first-time homebuyers…

“The term ‘first-time homebuyer’ is misleading because it doesn’t solely refer to buyers who have never been in the market who are purchasing their very first home. In actuality, the term applies to anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years. In a sense, you can become a born-again first-time homebuyer to take advantage of programs like down payment assistance. So if you lost your home during the recession and you’re working to reestablish yourself you can get assistance that will help you reenter the market.”

In other words, even if you foreclosed because you got wrapped up in a bad subprime mortgage and it led to that cardinal sin of default, the FHA forgives you and you can become one of these born-again first-time homebuyers to regain what you lost.

Finding your faith

Find your financial happy placeIf you’re one of those people who lost all faith in the real estate market after the crash, you’re not alone. But there are ways to regain that faith and remember the basic gospel of homeowners – that property in the U.S. is a good investment and a home is a great asset to have.

“Even following the downturn, the United States is still seen as a safe market internationally and a haven for people to invest.”

Cvelbar believes the housing market is still something we can all believe in. You just have to find your own path towards salvation if you haven’t already. Whether you’re a distressed homeowner who still needs help getting out of a bad mortgage or you’re looking to get in (or get back in) to the real estate market as a homebuyer, it’s in your best interest to talk to HUD’s anointed outreach disciples. Like all good missionaries, talking to a HUD-certified housing counselor doesn’t cost you a thing and you could have everything in the world to gain.