Cutting the grass.

Author:Hewitt, Janet Reilley
Position:DAVE'S DESK - Dialogue with Dave Stevens - Interview

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR when you start noticing all the for-sale signs in your neighborhood. So when I thought about interviewing Dave Stevens this month, I wondered what he remembers about buying his first house. [paragraph] The chief executive officer and president of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) spends a lot of time advocating for giving others the chance to buy a house, but how did his first house change his life?

Well for one thing, he had to buy a lawnmower.

He had a good-sized yard and had to cut the grass. He bought a rambler-style house in Denver on East La Salle back in 1984 for about $73,400. He assumed a 30-year fixed-rate Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan.

He also had to put up a chain-link fence for his golden retriever, Sam. Stevens poured the concrete and rolled out the fence segments. He installed a new front door and put up wallpaper. (Pretty hard-core for a newbie homeowner.) But he recalls being short on funds or "broke" as he put it, so that was the only option.

So, I wondered is he still a DIY (do-it-yourself) kind of guy? Would you find him, say, in a Home Depot on the weekend? "No," he says, pretty emphatically.

Today he lives in the city, runs a business and has less time for do-it-yourself jobs than he did when he was 30.

But back then, it was all about wealth-building and the belief in real estate as the first step in getting ahead.

I interviewed Stevens in early May-- the start of spring home-buying season--and I wanted to get his take on the state of the market. He was just finishing an email to presidential aspirant (kinda/sorta) Jeb Bush. (They apparently exchange emails on housing topics.) So I knew he was in the housing-policy mindset. (He also had just been approved for some kind of Twitter[R] account thing. He seemed pretty excited.)

But I wanted to ask about some of the biggest things standing in the way of more young families making their first purchase today.

He launched into what he sees as the core problems. He pinpointed an excessive enforcement environment where lenders fear suits by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for not manufacturing perfect, error-free loans. He said that's the kind of loan production--especially if you are a very large lender-- that is not humanly possible.

As a result, he says lenders are finally saying "they've had enough," as witnessed by one of the highest-quality FHA originators filing a proactive suit against DOJ, in the case of Quicken Loans.


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