Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lousy Job; Good Life?

In the News   Presented by Prairie Title  
September 29, 2016
Our Social Compact in the New Economic Reality

By Frank Pellegrini, Prairie Title CEO   

Not so long ago, Americans chose careers (or happened into them), worked for a single company or a few companies over the course of a lifetime and felt a sense of security based on loyalty and the employer-based benefits they received. As we all know, that world has substantially gone the way of all flesh. What now?

The New York Times recently published an article by Michael Lind of New America, a non-partisan public policy think tank, that examines the social compact in modern America by posing the intriguing question, Can You Have a Good Life if You Don’t Have a Good Job? Lind’s answer: Yes.

Incomes are rising, and that helps, but less visible government benefits are also growing.

“Americans have been moving away from a system in which a good job with a generous employer was the key to having a good life to a new system in which even people with low-wage jobs can have access to the basic goods and services that define a decent life in a modern society,” Lind writes.

“The unelected policy experts who envision a future of multiple job types and a greater, if hidden, role for government in maintaining minimum incomes and providing health and retirement benefits are essentially right. From the 1970s to the present, then, mostly with bipartisan support (the glaring exception was Obamacare), American policy makers have responded to the decline of high-wage jobs and generous employer-based benefits by gradually expanding the role of the government in ensuring that Americans have adequate income and adequate benefits.”
As you listen to politicians leading up to November’s critical election, keep in mind that what government officials and those who aspire to replace them say about taxes and benefits while campaigning often contradicts what they do in office. It is up to us to try to tell the difference.
What’s your point of view? Keep the conversation going by calling or emailing me, or write a comment below.

Other stories we’re following:

Five trends affecting: commercial real estate.
Ellie Mae: Time to close settles at 46 days. 
Households make long-awaited gains in housing recovery.
Housing market paradox.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What's All The Hype With Blockchain?

I had the good fortune to have been asked to moderate a panel at the upcoming American Land Title Association Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona in a couple of weeks. The topic is Blockchain. Like many of you, I had no idea what that is, but I have been learning  a great deal about it. And, I am excited about discussing with my panelists the many implications this technology may have on various industries, particularly real estate and financial services.

The program is set for Friday, October 7th from 10:00 - 11:00am (MT). Here's a link to a brief description of the topic:

To learn more about this, please post a comment or question below.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

TRID Updates and Millenials

In the News   Presented by Prairie Title  
September 1, 2016
Now is the Time to Comment on TRID

By Frank Pellegrini, Prairie Title CEO   

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published its proposed updates to TRID Monday, August 15, thus initiating the 64-day period in which the public can make comments about what CFPB has proposed and what might be missing. (Hint: The confusing way in which title insurance fees are disclosed is unchanged). Here’s an explanation from the MReport of how to submit comments.

I urge you to familiarize yourself with the changes proposed by CFPB, and make your feelings known publicly if you’re so inclined. We’re all working to get better at implementing the new system, and as things continue to shake out I have no doubt that the real estate industry will adopt a new “normal” closing process that is smooth, consistent and time-sensitive.

On the bright side, it seems as though the long-awaited movement of millennials into the home purchase market might be underway. The New York Times last week ran a perspective based on the recent Census Bureau report showing that more new homes were sold in July than in nearly a decade.

“Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand,” is the way the Times put it. Let’s hope that’s a trend. Millennials would provide just the shot in the arm our industry needs if they start moving toward home ownership in large numbers.

What’s your point of view? Keep the conversation going by calling or emailing me, or write a comment below.

Other stories we’re following:
Rate hike in the offing?
New multifamily rental share remains strong. 
Office REITs get mixed report card.
Positives pushing housing market near potential.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

In the News   Presented by Prairie Title  

July 28, 2016


Where’s the Housing?


By Frank Pellegrini, Prairie Title CEO   


We’re in the midst of political convention season, that every-four-year dream world where both parties write platforms that will never see the light of day past their conventions and silly hats, banners, balloons and confetti rule the day.

What’s missing from both the major candidates for president, unfortunately, is truly substantive policy regarding housing. Compounding the issue is the media’s almost complete lack of interest in talking about housing as an important economic issue. To paraphrase a political campaign from long ago, I ask: “Where’s the Housing?”

Take this recent piece from the Wall Street Journal as an example. Titled, “Where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Stand on Economic Issues,” the article goes on in detail about jobs, trade, taxes, entitlements, debt, immigration, infrastructure, the Fed, college, wages.

These are all important issues, without a doubt, but I ask again: Where’s the Housing? Whether owning or renting, everyone has to live somewhere, and the impact housing has on the American economy is enormous. There is some bi-partisan movement in Congress for GSE reform, and the major party platforms both have planks that urge a return to a real estate lending environment like Glass-Steagall. (Republicans would like to go back to Glass-Steagall; Democrats favor a modernized version of Glass-Steagall). Regardless, making our views known to the respective parties is the key to pushing our representatives toward developing housing policies that work. 

Real estate industry associations work every day to remind the media and politicians alike of the importance of housing. Our job, it seems to me, is to back them up by participating in industry political actions groups at the federal and state levels. We also must be dedicated to promoting the industry in our local communities through media relations and participation in community-based business groups. Let’s make our voices be heard.

What’s your point of view? Keep the conversation going by calling or emailing me, or write a comment here.

Other stories we’re following:

Lending tracking toward best year since ‘13.
Mega-Trends affecting commercial R.E. and housing.
Technology to replace the originator? We don’t think so.
Office REITs get mixed report card.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Revisions to TRID Rule?

In the News   Presented by Prairie Title  

June 27, 2016


TRID Changes Coming in July?


By Frank Pellegrini, Prairie Title CEO   


I know it seems like we’re beating a dead horse (apologies to our dearly departed equine friends), but TRID is the subject matter that just won’t go away. On April 28, CFPB Director Cordray wrote to industry trade groups that, “We believe that there are places in the regulation text and commentary where adjustments would be useful for greater certainty and clarity.”


Cordray expressed hope that action would be taken by late July without specifying the issues the agency would address. In the title business, we have been in conversations with CFPB about changing the rule to ensure consumers receive accurate, clear information about title insurance costs.

“ALTA appreciates Director Cordray and the CFPB stepping up to the plate and committing to provide more clarity on TRID,” said Michelle Korsmo, CEO of ALTA. “We value their openness in this process moving forward. We are committed to continuing our conversation with Director Cordray and the CFPB staff to correct the calculation of title insurance policy premiums.”

Since the Cordray letter, a bipartisan coalition has emerged in the U.S. House that is urging the CFPB to “ensure that your new forms serve as a credible source of accurate information about the true costs of buying a home for consumers.”

In other D.C. news, ALTA has joined a group of the nation’s largest real estate trade associations to push for cuts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fees. In a June letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the group said the fees that Fannie and Freddie charge lenders to guarantee mortgage loans serve as a tax on consumers, preventing some potential borrowers from becoming actual borrowers.

I agree that it’s time to eliminate the fees that were instituted in 2008 in the wake of the housing crisis and subsequent major financial troubles faced by Fannie and Freddie. The two agencies have been stabilized and the fees have become an obstacle to homeownership.

I urge you to to contact your representives in Washington to ask them to get behind these critical  initiatives to improve the home buying process.

Let’s keep the discussion going. Call or email me, or write a comment.

Other stories we’re following:

Storm brewing in commercial real estate?                        Dems join house push to recapitalize GSEs.


Homebuilders can get loans, but where to build?                                    New home sales reverse course.      

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Is Housing Gaining Traction?

In the News   Presented by Prairie Title  

June 1, 2016         

TRID Bumps along; Housing too 

By Frank Pellegrini, Prairie Title CEO 

I find it informative to follow the voices of those in the media who really know real estate inside and out. Two of those real estate media pros, Ken Harney and Diana Olick, are typically spot on in their assessments of the market and real estate industry issues in the short term and the long run. 

Harney, syndicated by the Washington Post, recently wrote an article whose premise was that implementation of TRID is delivering mixed results for professionals and consumers. He noted:

“A new study gauging consumers' experiences before and after the new rules took effect suggests that things may be looking up. It found that 92 percent of buyers are taking time to review their mortgage documents in advance of the settlement — making use of the three days they're now allotted to do so.” That study was conducted by the American Land Title Association. 

Citing another survey, Harney said, “Buyers also were pleased by being encouraged to shop for settlement services such as title insurance.”  I was especially happy to read that. We are actively encouraging consumers to shop for title services and I’m glad that approach is taking root. 

Lenders fees have increased to cover the additional costs at their end, and the average time to closing has increased (and now stabilized). For consumers, Harney’s bottom line was: “Be aware of the pluses and minuses of the rule changes. Expect greater transparency about costs — and more time to check them out — but also maybe a little longer time to close and increases in fees.” 

Olick is a featured reporter on CNBC who writes about day-to-day real estate activity more than the longer term trends Harney typically dives into. She is a great resource for the facts and figures that drive the trends in the industry. Among other analytics, she has recently focused on pending home sales, the shortage of existing homes for sale and the driving forces behind increasing mortgage applications, pointing out the fits and starts we continue to experience as housing bumps along. 

We regularly Tweet Harney’s and Olick’s observations and I would encourage you to follow them as well. Or simply follow Prairie Title on Twitter and we’ll provide that information for you.

Other stories we’re following:

Who’s Afraid of TRID risk?                                    Housing Prices Increase more than Expected.


Home Buying Drives Mortgage Apps.                         ommercial Sales Subdued in First Quarter.             

Monday, April 25, 2016

Spring Has Sprung?

In the News   Presented by Prairie Title            

Commentary by Frank Pellegrini, Prairie Title CEO  

April 25, 2016

We’re seeing it in our home town, where multi-family construction is going like gangbusters, and the numbers nationwide affirm it: Builders are confident as we move deeper into Q2 of 2016. The National Association of Home Builders’ closely-watched Confidence index, which focuses on single-family construction, was 58 for the third straight month. (Any reading over 50 signals improvement.) Midwest numbers mirror the national averages, holding steady in the 50s for nearly a year now.                                                                                                                                        

“Builder confidence has held firm at 58 for three consecutive months, showing that the single-family housing sector continues to recover at a slow but consistent pace,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill.  “As we enter the spring home buying season, we should see the market move forward.” 

At the same time, NAR announced on April 20 that existing home sales sprung ahead in March, “bolstered by big gains in the Northeast and Midwest.” That was the good regional news. Here comes the bad. 

Those of  us who live in Illinois know that things are a bit depressing at the moment as our governor and legislature grapple during a budget crisis with no foreseeable end in sight. I just returned from the ILTA lobby day in Springfield where we had a chance to meet with our legislators about issues that concern the real estate business and get a feel for the general state of affairs in Illinois government. Needless to say, there’s a lot of tension in the air. 

Whichever side of the political divide you’re on — or even if you’re sick of them all — I urge you to get involved individually, in your neighborhoods and through your business associations to help move the needle in Springfield. Until and unless the decision makers feel some real heat from the citizenry they have little incentive on either side to compromise.

Let’s keep the discussion going. Call or email me, or write a comment below.

Other stories we’re following:

Cybercrime on the Rise.                                              TRID Having an Effect on Jumbo MBS?     

Finally Easier to get a Mortgage.                                 Builder MSAs Here to Stay?