Credits Obama administration for regulatory reform
The balance in the market is better now, Anastos said. "Interest rates are at an historic low; there's a bit of an economic recovery in the Northeast where we do business; sellers are more realistic about home prices; and this regional housing market wasn't as hard hit as the rest of the country. As a result, we have seen an unbelievable amount of activity. Homes going for sale are only up for a short period of time and there are two or three bids on the property."
But isn't this a kind of government-induced market due to low interest rates? I asked.
"What I like to see in the home market," Anastos said, "is home purchase activity more than anything else -- even more than low interest rates. Low rates are an indicator of a weak economy. Over time, I wouldn't mind if the rates moved higher, if that means they are higher because the economy is improving -- a better reason for people to buy homes."
My thinking is, Mortgage Master was benefiting by being in the right place at the right time, i.e., the Northeast and not, for example, the Southeast.
Anastos agreed: "We are predominantly in the Northeast -- New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and a small amount of activity in the mid-Atlantic states. That's our footprint, so it's hard for me to speak of other markets. From what I know of Florida or Atlanta, I don't think those markets are having as much success as we are. The recovery there is probably slower, just because those areas experienced so much growth before the Great Recession."
So, is Mortgage Master planning to expand regionally?
"I don't believe you have to be a nationwide lender to be successful," he said. "You should stick to what you do well and maybe certain parts of the country aren't the best footprints for our company. We try to stay in urban metros with good suburbs surrounding dense cities, places like Boston, District of Columbia, and New York with its surrounding suburbs in New Jersey and Connecticut. Those cities are different, but you see a lot of similarities in the demographics of the borrowers. We work those markets very well."
My last question was this: Has the mortgage lending environment changed for better or worse over the past four years?
On the whole, Anastos was very positive in his response.
"Getting rid of exotic programs and returning to common sense lending has been good; you have to be able to prove you are going to support the debt you are going to take on," he said. "Loan officer licensing was a huge positive for the industry; it raised the bar in terms of qualifications of the people who are writing mortgage loans. Some of the new regulations have been misguided. The original HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) wasn't good, but the HARP II program is great."
Wow, a lender who has positive things to say about all the lending changes introduced by the Obama administration.
Anastos emphatically concluded, "Overall, the regulatory environment has changed in a positive way."
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis," is now available for sale on Amazon.com.
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