One thing I love about my job is the diversity of people and experiences that I have. Recently I started my day at the Copper Kettle Restaurant off of Westinghouse Boulevard meeting with a farmer about his land. Afterward, I went home to put on a tie and ended up on the 47th floor of the Hearst Tower speaking as a panelist for the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).
The panelists assembled were incredibly thoughtful and overall I heard a lot of “prudent optimism,” as I’ll call it. Bo Manuel from K & L Gates’ Charleston office moderated the panel discussion, which included Preslava Kovatchevska, production manager at Freddie Mac Multifamily, Mike Ortlip of Grandbridge Real Estate Capital, Bill Iacobucci, Multifamily Credit Risk Manager of Federal National Mortgage Association, and myself.
The MBA represents the real estate finance industry and lobbies before Congress, advocating on issues associated with mortgage lending. A current focus of the group is on affordable housing, which has become a pressing issue in Charlotte. That topic came up a lot during our discussion.
The timing of this group converging in Charlotte was interesting. That morning Trump announced that he intends to privatize Fannie to allow for more competition. This was not a group that felt like the private sector to me – far from being a start-up. There was a full 30-minute briefing for the 45-minute panel discussion. I felt like the only gun slinger in the room every time the mic was handed to me.
If there ever was a place where the bureaucratic mindset serves the citizens of America – the halls of these two organizations may be it.
- Where are we in the market cycle? Is the other shoe about to drop?
All panelists were pretty much on the same page here in feeling confident that there there is no looming shoe about to fall this year. The execs from Fannie Mae and and Freddie Mac said they expect demand to remain good in the multifamily markets, but they were concerned about overbuilding in a few areas. Generally speaking, the entire panel remained optimistic about multifamily development and housing in most markets. Fannie and Freddie continue to be very focused on who the developer is, what the experience level is, and which submarkets they are targeting. Fannie and Freddie also are very focused on the rents being charged and they are concerned about the percentage of take home pay that goes to rent. San Francisco was mentioned a couple of times as a market where half of Millennials’ take home pay goes to pay rent.
- When will Millennials want a single-family home of their own?
Business leaders and trend watchers often talk a lot about Millennials and their habits and the MBA was no exception. There was a lot of discussion about Millennials and when or if Millennials will want to move out of multifamily properties and into a single-family home. There was no answer from the panelists as no one felt certain about the answer. But they are watching closely.
- Affordability. Affordability. Affordability.
Who can affordable what, when and were as it relates to housing? There are lots of smart people in real estate wondering about residential affordability. Millennials who may want to move away from apartment living to a single-family home with a yard, for example, may not be able to afford such a move. There’s less land available for new single-family homes. Entitlements are hard to get. Construction prices are at an all-time high.
There weren’t a ton of answers provided by the panelists, particularly as it relates to affordability. But the MBA as a group is giving these issues a lot of thought. An example of the impact the group can have: One possible solution the group is exploring to improve affordability is to making home lending more accessible in rural areas. This would give lower income residents who want to live in rural areas a better chance at owning a home. Good food for thought.