In an effort to get a better sense of the challenges REALTORS® face in today’s market and explain to members NAR’s positions and actions on key issues, the Leadership Team recently held its first-ever virtual “Town Hall” meeting. The panel — which included NAR 2011 President Ron Phipps, President-Elect Moe Veissi, Vice President and Liaison to Government Affairs Vince Malta, and Vice President and Liaison to Committees Elizabeth Mendenhall — heard questions and comments from members who were videoconferenced in from Northern Virginia and REALTORS® from around the country who called in.

The very first question concerned an issue that’s dogged many members over the past couple of years: the slowness and unpredictability of banks’ decisions and processes, particularly around short sales. As Phipps pointed out, NAR has met with representatives of a few large banks, and will meet with more soon, in an effort to work out a solution to this problem.

According to Phipps, at the root of the issue is a lack of “ironclad policies” that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the big banks all adhere to. That said, the pace of short sales and other unconventional transactions is starting to pick up, Malta said. “There are instances where it’s working better,” he said. “Last week, I had a short sale approved in one day.”

Another key issue from the perspective of NAR and its members is the mortgage interest deduction, which was discussed at length at the Town Hall. According to Malta, the association’s message to Congress on the MID — which might be singled out by President Obama in tonight’s State of the Union Address as a tax expenditure that should be reduced or cut (Update: He didn’t.) — is that it’s the “foundation to getting people into homes.”

“The government’s commitment to housing has been great from the last 70 to 80 years,” he said. “To retreat from that position now would be a devastating blow.”

Members can help in the effort to preserve the MID by responding to NAR’s Calls to Action, Mendenhall added. “We need your voice — we need it loud,” she said.

Additionally, the panel focused on mortgage financing and GSE reform in their discussion. Phipps said the No. 1 issue for NAR in the near term was ensuring the flow of mortgage capital. The big question right now is: Will the money come from the private sector or from some government-supported entities?

NAR advocates a hybrid approach to that issue. Some level of government involvement is necessary, as a fully private market would almost certainly ensure the elimination of the 30-year amortized mortgage, Veissi said.

“Imagine if all of the secondary market was just private investors,” he said. “What would they want? Certainly not a 30-year fixed loan. They would want a three- or five-year rollover at prevailing rates. Imagine what that would do to the selling prospects of your customers.”

Finally, in response to a question from a member about how to keep people in their homes, Phipps encouraged REALTORS® to familiarize themselves with assistance programs for borrowers. “We, more than anyone else, know the human cost of this,” he said. “There are some good programs in place that the public needs to know about.”

This blog reprinted from “Speaking of Real Estate”. By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine.