LuAnn Lavine of Re/Max Hometown Advantage in Henry County, Illinois caused quite a stir when she confronted President Obama at a recent presidential town hall meeting in that state. She politely asked a question of the President regarding real estate:
"Every week, I sit at the kitchen tables of families who are here today, and I listen to stories of lost jobs, being upside-down in their house, asking for help, (asking) what programs are out there," Lavine said to the President.
"In May and June, my phone was ringing, I was busier than all get-out," she continued. She told the President she thought she was seeing progress in the local housing economy.
But, she cautioned, "since the debt-ceiling fiasco in Washington, the phone has stopped. We have no consumer confidence. Interest rates are a record low. I should be working 15 hours a day, but I'm not."
Ms. Lavine wanted to know the President's plans to turn around the current housing situation.
Obama started to explain that his administration had made it a priority to set up programs to help families to stay in their homes. "We have been trying to push the banks, push the servicers to make loan modifications that will allow people to stay in their homes...."
Then Lavine politely interrupted the nation's chief executive.
"Can I please say something?" she asked. "The loan-modification system has been a nightmare; Short sales are a nightmare and the lenders are so tight and you have to be so perfect, and it's not a perfect world."
The president acknowledged the size of the problem, with a "couple million" home-loan modifications, but "...the housing market is so big."
A lot of banks have now recovered, he told her and the crowd. "They need to have slightly tighter lending criteria than they used to have, obviously, because that was a part of the reason that we had that housing bubble. Nonetheless," he said, "the banks need to be more willing to grant credit to individuals who are good risks."
In his opinion, "it will probably take this year and next year for us to see a slow appreciation in the housing market."
He thanked her for her "very good question," and moved on to others in the audience.