Mesa, Ariz., Realtors React To Housing Plan
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
President Obama unveiled his mortgage-relief plan in Arizona. And we now get reaction from someone who knows a thing or two about the housing market there. NPR's Ted Robbins paid a visit to a real estate agent who was very interested to hear what the president had to say.
TED ROBBINS: Tiffany Cloud and I are standing in front of her house in Mesa, Arizona, a few miles away from where the president spoke. The almond trees in her front yard are covered with pink and white blooms. It's a bright, sunny day, and she just put up a sign of the times, a for sale sign.
TIFFANY CLOUD: We've got a rather a large lot. And we want less work in less time. And you now, we're trying to live better within our means.
ROBBINS: Tiffany Cloud's family, a husband and three children, are not in financial trouble. But like lots of people, they're pulling back, not sure the housing crisis and the recession are going to end soon. She works at home. Her office is just inside the door.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)
ROBBINS: Her livelihood may depend on President Obama's plan. So she listened to his speech very carefully.
CLOUD: I took a page of notes.
ROBBINS: One thing stuck out immediately.
CLOUD: First thing I wrote down was the 31 percent.
ROBBINS: That's the part that would help homeowners bring down their mortgage payments to as low as 31 percent of their income. She thinks that's a great idea. She has clients who are in foreclosure because their incomes have gone down, and their mortgage payments have gone up to well more than half their income. But Tiffany Cloud says the rest of the president's speech left her with more questions than answers.
CLOUD: The ideas and the intentions sound wonderful. I was really wanting to hear details - I think like a lot of people in our industry were.
ROBBINS: For instance, President Obama said he wanted to help homeowners who played by the rules.
CLOUD: We don't want to reward people hat didn't play by the rules. And I don't know how you would define that. And he also said he wanted to hold banks and lenders responsible. And I don't know how you do that, either.
ROBBINS: As John Ydstie reported earlier, the plan relies on financial incentive and an increased role for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Cloud thinks that's fine. But she's waiting to see if the banks will respond, and she's doubtful. Right now, she says she has a half-dozen clients ready to buy homes that have been put into foreclosure, and nothing's happening.
CLOUD: And it's basically, Tiffany, find me the deal and make it happen. Well, making it happen is where we get stuck because we're going through so many layers of red tape. The banks have more red tape than the government.
ROBBINS: One of her buyers made an offer on a house at the beginning of January, and the bank is still sitting on it.
CLOUD: They still have not even assigned it to a negotiator to look at the file yet. And we're getting close to two months now on this file, and it's still sitting there. Meanwhile, our houses - our prices declined over 7 percent just in one month.
ROBBINS: Everyone agrees getting housing inventory off the market, or not letting it get on the market in the first place, is a key to stabilizing housing prices. Tiffany Cloud is not yet confident that's going to happen in a meaningful way this year, unless lenders respond quickly to the Obama plan.
Ted Robbins, NPR News. Mesa, Arizona.