Marcia Fudge is now the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), having served her final day on Friday, March 22, after announcing her resignation just 11 days earlier. Adrianne Todman now serves as acting HUD secretary.

In a recently published interview with NPR, Fudge was asked why now is the time to step away from the job, particularly as President Joe Biden has made housing issues a centerpiece of the administration heading into what is likely to be a hotly contested presidential race in the fall.

“One [reason], of course, is I just want to go home,” Fudge told NPR. “I have been away from home for more than 20 years, and it’s just time to go. [I] have an aging mother [and] family that, really, I’d like to spend some more time with. So it just became time. I feel really, really good[…] about what we have been able to do.”

Marcia Fudge, 18th secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who served under President Joe Biden.
Marcia Fudge

But Fudge’s resignation announcement also noted that she felt “mixed emotions” about leaving her post, which she said is mostly tied to the immense amount of work left to do in U.S. housing.

“Because there’s always more work to do,” she said when asked why she feels mixed emotions. “And so if there is any regret that I would have at all, it would just be that I just couldn’t do enough. But then, on the other hand, I know the environment in which I work, and I also know that not much is going to be done through this election cycle. And I just gave it everything I had.”

When asked for her assessment on housing affordability, Fudge said that the core issue is that there has not been enough investment in low- to-moderate income housing sources.

“Everybody wants a McMansion [and] two-acre lots,” she said. “We cannot build houses the way our parents and grandparents built them. And so we neglected to build anything that most average Americans can afford. And so we finally are now at a point where it is a crisis. The only way we get out of this […] is to build more affordable housing. And it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take years.”

The U.S. is roughly 3 million units of affordable housing short of where it needs to be, Fudge said. That imbalance between supply and demand will serve to keep prices elevated. When asked about the different jurisdictions that intersect with housing — since city, county, state and federal governments all play a role — she said she believes there is more the federal government can do.

“I think that we’re going to have to start to do more public-private partnerships, which are some of the things that we’ve started doing, and that’s why we’ve been able to put more housing in the market,” she said. “We also need to go into communities like the ones I come from. I come from Cleveland, Ohio.

“We need to start to find ways to preserve core communities and not allow the kind of gentrification we’ve been seeing, not allow private companies to come in and just buy up swaths of land. We need to make sure that those properties remain affordable.”

Fudge was also asked about homelessness issues in various communities, and she responded by saying there needs to be more investment in “very low-income housing.”

“We’ve got to get away from shelters,” she said. “We have to get away from tent cities. We issued about $3 billion to communities across the country to assist them in dealing with unhoused people in their communities. Instead of shelters, they’re building tiny houses. Instead of congregate places, they’re building places that have common areas but have private rooms.

“We’re doing all of that kind of thing just to get people initially off the streets into an environment where they can start to heal. That really is the answer to homelessness, is housing.”

Fudge also said she hopes to continue advising the White House on housing issues on an informal basis as she returns to life as a private citizen.

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Fueled by a surge in mortgage rates, owning a home has become increasingly expensive. According to a Freddie Mac housing and mortgage market report released Monday, while mortgage payments remain the primary pressure point for homeowners, insurance costs are emerging as a growing burden.

Homeowners insurance costs, though still much smaller than mortgage principal and interest payments, are on the rise. Even a slight uptick in insurance expenses can disproportionately impact very low-income borrowers, defined as those earning no more than 50% of the area median income.

In 2023, homeowners insurance premiums consumed 3.1% of the monthly income of these very low-income borrowers, significantly higher than the percentages for low-income (2.1%), middle-income (1.5%) and high-income borrowers (1.1%).

Freddie Mac’s estimates reveal a stark increase in the average annual homeowners insurance premium. In 2018, the average borrower paid $1,081 per year for a single-family, owner-occupied home with a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. But by 2023, this figure surged to $1,522 — an increase of 10.8% from 2022 and up 40.8% from 2018.

Effective homeowners insurance rates have remained relatively stable, with borrowers paying $4.90 per $1,000 of their home’s value in 2023, compared to $4.70 per $1,000 in 2018. 

But significant disparities exist across states. In 2023, borrowers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Mississippi paid more than $8 for every $1,000 of home value, while those in California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington, D.C., paid less than $2.50 per $1,000. Freddie Mac’s findings align with aggregated statistics from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

Factors such as exposure to natural hazards and regulatory environments contribute to these disparities. For example, California’s strict regulations on companies that offer homeowners insurance help to explain the lower rates compared to similarly disaster-prone states like Louisiana and Mississippi.

Between 2018 and 2023, homeowners insurance premiums increased from 1.49% to 1.64% of a borrower’s monthly income, on average. In certain states — including Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Mississippi — homeowners are now allocating more than 2.5% of their monthly income to insurance premiums. This upward trend coincided with a higher share of income being allocated toward mortgage principal and interest payments.

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It may be counterintuitive, but loan officer Scott Betley, a 32-year-old TikTok sensation, says he isn’t worried about a potential U.S. ban of the short-form video app.

Betley, who has more than a decade of experience helping first-time and move-up buyers, joined NFM Lending as a loan officer in 2021. The following year, the Maryland-based lender created an Influencer Division, appointing Betley as vice president and co-creator. 

Using trending videos, educational content and humor to reveal all the secrets about buying a house, Betley, known as @thatmortgageguy, has reached 870,000 followers and garnered 15.5 million ‘likes’ on TikTok. To put this into perspective, he claims 300,000 followers on other platforms. Such a substantial audience results from spending four to five hours per day on social media.

“It does not cost me anything [to be on TikTok]. We get paid for it and we’ve monetized our brands tremendously,” Betley said in an interview. “I’ve probably closed a little over $100 million in loan volumes from people who have contacted me through TikTok over the last three years. TikTok is probably 40% to 45% of my business.”

Greg Sher, managing director at NFM, stated in a social media post that the lender’s Influencer Division, comprised of a team of 14 LOs, has generated nearly 70,000 leads over the past 35 months from five major social platforms. Specifically, 75% of these leads (or about 52,500 in total) were driven by TikTok, Sher said.

The figures demonstrate the potential impact on lenders like NFM — and LOs like Betley — if U.S. lawmakers were to prohibit the social media platform from operating in the country.

This possibility has grown since March 13, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, through a bipartisan vote of 352-65, that gave ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, a deadline of six months to sell the app’s U.S. assets or face a ban.

The bill is now in the Senate, where the outcome is unknown. Meanwhile, investors are taking steps to acquire the business. For instance, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — who recently injected capital into Flagstar Bank’s struggling owner, New York Community Bancorp — announced his intention to form an investor group to purchase the video app. 

“In terms of the ban itself, I’m not too worried about it just because I know the user base in the United States for TikTok makes up a large percentage of the total. … I feel they’re going to pivot and sell and figure something out, just because there’s billions of dollars left on the table,” Betley said. TikTok reported in March 2023 that 150 million Americans use the short-form video app. 

As for his business, Betley added that, “at the end of the day, we built the skill set in terms of content creation and short-form video, and then the attention is going to be somewhere.” To mortgage pros, “it’s just a matter of staying on top of where that organic attention is and continuing to put the content there.”  

Like Betley, several loan officers who have invested time and resources into publishing content on TikTok over the past few years told HousingWire it’s unfortunate that the short-video app could face a potential ban in the country. 

TikTok has primarily served as a tool for mortgage pros to connect with first-time homebuyers through educational and entertaining content, maintain long-term relationships with the audience, and establish a reputation in the market. Moreover, the app has been a source of leads, representing a substantial portion of some LOs’ businesses.

But mortgage pros also believe there will be opportunities as the audience shifts to other social media platforms and content creators inevitably follow suit.  

Rebecca Richardson, a loan officer at California-based Kind Lending, joined TikTok about four years ago “not to dance,” but to “experiment” and “build a library” aimed at explaining complex concepts related to the homebuying process in a simple manner, she said.  

The endeavor led to Richardson, known as, attracting 147,200 followers on TikTok and receiving 1.2 million likes. In total, Richardson dedicates approximately 10 to 15 hours per week to social media platforms. In 2019, 4% of her business originated from social media, but from 2020 through 2022, it increased to an average of 30%. TikTok alone accounted for about 12% to 15%, she said.

“The bill is going to the Senate and I think it would be unfortunate [if TikTok is banned], just because that opens up rabbit holes for other concerns about other platforms,” Richardson said. “But at this point, if TIkTok goes away, I’m not so worried about it from my personal business, just simply because I have other platforms that I can lean into. And now I have a content creation process.”

Richardson anticipates the audience transitioning to YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels if TikTok is banned from the U.S. Her expectation was echoed by other loan officers. 

Exploring alternatives

Matt Gougé, a loan originator at Philadelphia-based UMortgage, said that “like many things, you learn to adapt,” implying that if TikTok is banned, loan officers will find clients and real estate partners on other social media platforms where “people’s eyeballs are going to be.”

Gougé, whose handle is @matthemortgageguy, currently has 2,545 followers and 14,200 likes on TikTok. He anticipates the audience transitioning to YouTube, where he enjoys far greater popularity, with 21,300 subscribers to his channel.

This shift would primarily impact the 25- to 45-year-old demographics that are on TikTok. It aligns, for the most part, with first-time homebuyers, he said. Gougé views TikTok as a shorter form of content intended to capture attention and educate borrowers, a strategy that has become more relevant in a shrinking mortgage market.

“In 2021, people got preapproved, submitted an offer, got a contract in a weekend; we’re seeing more and more, six months, nine months, 12 months to nurture, educate, preapprove, and so on, and you can do that on some of these platforms,” Gougé said. “Anybody who’s been on long enough realizes that putting out educational content is the best form of nurturing through the beginning of that lifecycle of a client.” 

Gougé’s colleague Kyle Koller, a UMortgage branch manager who has invested effort into increasing his followers on TikTok, said that LOs should be on multiple platforms to mitigate risk. In his case, if TikTok were to be banned, he would lean on Instagram due to his familiarity with the app. 

Koller spends at least $8,000 a month on social media platforms. He employs two full-time professionals who work to boost his social media presence since he is also originating loans. Thus far, he estimates that he receives probably “two deals a month” correlated to TikTok and Instagram. Koller, known as @kylemylender, has 4,608 followers and more than 1,760 likes on TikTok. 

“I’m using it as an educational tool,” Koller said. “Sometimes borrowers don’t want to have a phone call. The newer generations want to see stuff. So, instead of just texting back and forth, I’ll say, ‘I did a video on social media,’ and direct them to that. I can use it as a storage tool for educational value propositions to clients. I’ll try to sprinkle in some funny stuff because that’s what people want.” 

Marketing experts believe that LOs are mainly reaching Gen Z on TikTok, although other demographics also use the app. Researchers use the mid-to-late 1990s as the starting birth years and the early 2010s as the ending birth years for this generation. 

And, “what we’re seeing with Gen Z is that they have a longer research-to-buy lifecycle,” said Corie Meredith, vice president of marketing at UMortgage. 

“They read a lot of comments; they watch a lot of influencers. So, there’s a huge opportunity for loan officers or anyone within the mortgage space to be true educators on the platform,” Meredith said. “Gen Zs look at loyalty as not just purchasing but following and engaging with that brand or that influencer online. The marketing funnel has shifted due to this generation and the impact of things like TikTok.” 

Meredith said banning TikTok would be unfortunate from a customer experience perspective since it’s designed to educate borrowers. 

“TikTok does offer something special when it comes to those key elements that Gen Z finds so much value in. It’s an easy way for us to educate and be transparent about financial literacy and prepare them for homeownership. At the end of the day, the customer would be the one missing out versus the business.”  

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A recent CNBC survey based on cost per square foot revealed that the United States’ most expensive real estate market is San Francisco’s South of Market, which contains historic Victorian buildings surrounded by Beaux-Arts and neoclassical government buildings. On the other coast, in New York, Brooklyn’s most expensive real estate market is Brooklyn Heights, a leafy neighborhood of century-plus-old brownstones. 

Both have designated historical status, meaning their period architecture cannot be changed. However, not all older neighborhoods are historic. For investors looking to maximize equity appreciation, the key is buying an older home on the cusp of receiving the historic designation. 

Historic Districts Can Gain 20% Appreciation Per Year

There are more than 2,300 local historic districts in the United States, and new ones are being considered constantly. Every state has them, and they aren’t out of most investors’ price range. The government often offers grants, low-interest loans, and tax breaks to renovate homes in these areas. 

real estate analysis of Washington, D.C. by economist Donovan D. Rypkema showed historic districts can increase property values. Indeed, a 2011 study of Connecticut historic districts and property values found this designation could raise it almost 20% per year in some areas

The first step in becoming a historic district is to be designated a “landmark” status. Neighborhoods with historic churches and older buildings are particularly good candidates, as they are most likely listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places

Becoming landmarked is not fast or easy, but it’s a resource that investors often overlook. Once a neighborhood is afforded a historic designation, the older buildings attain prestige because they are immediately protected from developers. Preserving architectural gems can profoundly affect property values in cities with new, gleaming condo towers like New York. 

Crown Heights North, a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn with a reputation for crime that is also filled with brownstones and old churches, was given historic status in 2011. All metrics point to a massive shift in not only property values, which occurred throughout Brooklyn but crucially, household income (the largest demographic earned below $20,000 annually in 2000, compared to $100,000 to $250,000 in 2021). Poverty had dropped to 14.8% compared to 18% citywide, while rents increased by 48.8% between 2006-2021.

Things to Be Aware Of When Buying an Older Home

If you’re buying a home in a landmarked designated or historic district, it’s likely older and needs renovation. There are a host of potential issues you could incur. Here are some considerations.

You might be entering into a restoration rather than a renovation

Buying in a historically designated neighborhood or a landmarked one means adhering to a strict code

Common stipulations for rehabbers include using wooden window casements that match the original ones that came with the home instead of model metal and vinyl ones. Exterior railings, gates, and doors will likely be replaced with like ones or restored to their previous condition. Ditto goes for moldings, motels, and fireplaces. However, mechanical walls, such as plumbing and electrical upgrades, will likely be unaffected and can be upgraded with modern materials. 

Homeowners insurance could cost more

Home insurance rates can be higher for a historic home due to the cost of building to historic specifications in the event of a total loss. Also, if the home is larger, with various outbuildings as part of the parcel, this will also increase the insurance cost.

Getting Financial Assistance for Your Renovations

The good news is that grants and loans can help investors with renovations. Your state Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) should be your first stop to learn about funding advantages. 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Tax Credit program (HTC) is also an invaluable resource. Historic preservation easements are also worth looking into, and if they apply, they can also bring additional tax benefits

A Historic Home Can Be a Good Investment for a Vacation Rental

If you own a historic home in a scenic part of the country or in a bustling downtown city neighborhood, consider a vacation rental business.

With cultural tourism (defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as “movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art, and pilgrimages”) accounting for 40% of tourism in some countries, rental sites AirbnbVRBO, and Joybird have sections dedicated to historic homes that appeal to travelers looking to avoid sterile corporate hotels in favor of a character-filled, welcoming stay. Marketing your home’s historical status and choosing tasteful interior designs will appeal tremendously to visitors. If you own a historic home, you could also get the advantage of state websites (here’s one example from Pennsylvania) promoting your rental to attract visitors.

Final Thoughts

Historic homes are character-filled and often located in the scenic or older parts of towns and cities where most people want to live. This results in rapid appreciation and high rental demand. Check with your city’s rental laws to ensure your home can accommodate guests.

Entering a historic home renovation requires time, patience, and experience when following the city’s guidelines. As an investor, you can be certain that if you maintain your property, it will likely increase in value far faster than other non-historic homes in the area.

Ready to succeed in real estate investing? Create a free BiggerPockets account to learn about investment strategies; ask questions and get answers from our community of +2 million members; connect with investor-friendly agents; and so much more.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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Home equity levels among homeowners aged 62 and older are at record levels following the end of the pandemic. As a result, reverse mortgages may no longer be considered a “loan of last resort” as financial planners aim to highlight their uses as part of a comprehensive financial plan in retirement.

This is according to a column published this week by Investment News, soliciting input from planner professionals well known to the reverse mortgage business, including Wade Pfau. But other data suggests convincing borrowers of the benefits remains very challenging.

Reverse mortgage use as part of a broader financial plan “is really the intention in the financial planning space,” Pfau told the outlet. While reverse mortgage customers benefit greatly from low rates, the current high-rate environment doesn’t fully cancel out their potential use as a planning tool, he explained.

“It’s all about the sequence-of-returns risk in retirement planning […] Spending from the home equity helps you preserve more investments, so there is going to be a bigger legacy at the end,” Pfau told the outlet. “The beneficiaries can get more. They can pay off the loan and still have a net windfall.”

This perspective is consistent with prior statements Pfau has provided to other outlets, including to RMD.

Other financial planners adjacent to the reverse mortgage space offered their own thoughts, including Steve Resch, vice president of retirement strategies at Finance of America Reverse (FAR).

“The goal is for the client or the family to always retain an equity position in that property. […] Years ago, that wasn’t the case,” Resch said in the story, describing the housing crisis of 2008 as a “reckoning” for the reverse mortgage industry as well as the larger housing ecosystem.

Resch explained that the ballooning length of retirement in America contributes to the potential utility of a reverse mortgage for qualifying borrowers.

“It’s simply a matter of demographics,” he told Investment News. “We have an enormous population that is moving into retirement. We’ve got a massive amount of equity available. We’re looking at 20- to 30-year retirements. Bringing home equity into that plan really makes sense.”

Another financial planner, Gateway Wealth Management founder David Foster, cited Pfau’s work in particular as helping to bring him around on the product category as a planning tool for clients, but convincing them to take a closer look at a reverse mortgage remains a major challenge.

“I think reverse mortgages might be the single most underutilized retirement planning tool,” he told the outlet. “I have found it extremely difficult to have a rational conversation with my clients about reverse mortgages. Most people who’ve paid off their house just cannot fathom the idea of going back into debt.

“No amount of logic will be able to convince them that it is wise to borrow against their house in retirement after having worked so hard to pay off their home prior to retirement,” Foster added. “I’ve even had people get borderline angry with me for even suggesting the idea.”

Last year, Mutual of Omaha Mortgage released survey data suggesting that education hurdles remain very steep for the reverse mortgage industry when aiming to connect with a variety of different borrowers on multiple potential use cases.

Shelley Giordano, a longtime reverse mortgage advocate and Mutual of Omaha’s director of enterprise integration, discussed those findings with RMD after presenting them to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) last summer.

“A lot of people anecdotally tell me that they get quite a bit of their business from financial advisors, so that would make you think that things are easier,” Giordano, director of said in a 2023 interview with RMD. “And yet, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a trickle-down effect from [those conversations].”

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The landscape for home flipping across the country was challenging in 2023 as fewer single-family homes and condominiums were flipped and investment returns on these projects declined.

A total of 308,922 single-family homes and condos were flipped in 2023, down 29.3% from the 436,807 flips in 2022. This marked the largest annualized decline for the sector since 2008, according to recently released report from real estate data analytics company Attom.

Of the 65,656 homes flipped in fourth-quarter 2023, there were a total of 52,701 investors involved, translating to a ratio of 1.25 flips per investor. 

At the national level, homes flipped in 2023 were sold for a median price of $306,000 and generated a gross flipping profit of $66,000, a 5.8% decline from the typical profit of $70,100 in 2022. 

Return on investment (ROI) was 27.5% in 2023, the lowest level posted since 2007. For comparison, ROI was 28.1% in 2022 and 35.7% in 2021, which was the highest level this century.

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“Whether the overall market has soared or seen just modest gains in recent years, investors have missed out on the action,” Barber said.

“The sharp decline in the number of home flips likely reflected a combination of a tight supply of homes for sale as well as dwindling returns. Either way, it will take some significant reworking of the financials for home flipping fortunes to turn back around.”

The share of flips that were initially purchased with cash rose to 63.9% in the fourth quarter, up from 62.8% in the third quarter but down from 65.6% from Q4 2022. 

For the entire year, about 63.5% of homes flipped were bought with cash, down from 64% in 2022 and from 63.8% in 2021.

Home flips as a portion of all sales transactions dropped in 112 of the 212 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in Attom’s report.

The largest decreases came in the South and West regions. Gainesville, Georgia, witnessed the largest decline as flips represented 15.1% of all sales in 2022 but only 9.9% in 2023.

Phoenix followed closely behind as home flipping rate dropped from 16.3% to 11.9% of all sales during the year. It was followed by Prescott, Arizona (down 3.8 percentage points); Charlotte, North Carolina (down 3.6 percentage points); and Provo, Utah (down 3.4 percentage points).

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HousingWire Editor in Chief Sarah Wheeler sat down with Shayan Hamidi, CEO of Rechat, to talk about how he picks the right problems to solve, the incredible pace of AI innovation, and finding the joy in work.

Sarah Wheeler: Let’s talk about your background, because you have both technology and real estate experience.

Shayan Hamidi: I studied computer science, economics and math and my background is technology. I have founded several startups, but my previous startup in Canada was a tech company in real estate. We were kind of the Zillow of Canada — we were the first platform to open up access to real estate data. And I got into it because I thought that experience was broken for the consumers, but immediately realized that agents play a key role in that picture. And their experience is also highly fragmented and broken, and that’s what bubbles up to the consumer experiences.

So I got into the real estate business from then on. This is from 2009 — I  opened up a high-tech real estate brokerage with actual agents, working through transactions day in day out and really understanding what processes look like. It became one of the fastest-growing brokerages at the time in Canada, and then I sold that in 2014, and moved to the U.S.

It was very obvious that the brokerage of the future and the agent of the future need to be tech-enabled. I transitioned into starting Rechat: it’s a technology company but I think it’s extremely important to have folks that have actually been part of the transaction. Real estate, from the outside, feels like it’s not that complex, so you have tech folks come in trying to solve problems without truly understanding those problems.

SW: What differentiates your tech?

SH: I think technology and design are there to help solve the problem and the best technology and the best design are the ones you don’t actually realize are there. You are just experiencing them as you do what you need to do. That’s our point of view, which then impacts the way we go about architecting our technology and our product. So we apply systems thinking — when you think of your product within a bigger system and take one holistic approach to it.

A lot of folks in real estate technology focus on solving a lead-generation problem, or they focus on creating a CRM system. What they end up doing is having a selection of tools, but it’s highly fragmented. They’re very much focused on solving those specific problems, whereas our focus is on the bigger experience. And when you start thinking of the bigger picture, you’re solving a different type of problem, which gives you a different point of view.

For us, it’s all about creating one streamlined experience for whatever that agent is doing with buyers or sellers. Based on that, we use a ton of mobile, because our agents are always on the go. We found that agents are spending close to 80% of their time just doing administrative work. That’s a lot of rekeying of the same information! So we focus on what kind of databases we have that can be shared amongst different experiences to avoid re-keying of data.

SW: How do you leverage artificial intelligence?

SH: Saying AI is like saying software — it’s a generic term. We have used AI for quite some time, but I do think that generative AI will have a huge impact in the industry. Last year was actually fascinating, because obviously some of the stuff we see with AI is just mind-blowing. I’ve been in technology forever and I’ve never seen these sorts of things. But it truly is day zero. You see very little production-grade products out there, because it’s very expensive and hard to train the models to get them to do what you want to do.

We work directly with OpenAI and some of the challenges that we have or other developers have — literally we wake up in the morning and there’s a new thing that just released that solves that problem. And the documentation is not even available for it. So when we talk about bleeding-edge technology — some of this is happening in real time.

I think if you want to innovate, you need to be able to think long-term. I don’t think anyone’s ever innovated in the short-term. So you need to be able to have the appetite for that: be willing to take the risks and be willing to be patient for quite some time. And I think AI is one of those things. You can do some fun, cool stuff with it very quickly, but then if you want to start doing meaningful things, it’s a big long-term investment, at least today.

SW: What are you doing that you consider innovative?

SH: You asked about AI — we’ve heavily invested in creating Lucy, our AI copilot, as an assistant. We recently launched just a few months ago and I would say she’s the most advanced assistant an agent can have. She does pretty much all the stuff you can do with chatGPT, from writing a listing description to creating a social media posts and those sorts of things. But I think where we had a breakthrough is we were able to get her to not just create things, but also execute on tasks. And that’s a very important transition.

She actually does things that are way beyond what you could do in a basic chatGPT. And it could literally save hours of an agent’s time during the day. This can be creating full marketing campaigns for the agent. She can create a website and actually make it go live. She can run complicated ad campaigns and actually optimize those on a more real-time basis than an agent would ever do. She can help with the transaction process for the agent.

Lucy works on mobile, on the computer, and she has access to all the different tools within Rechat. And she understands personalization, so Lucy knows  your preferences on fonts and colors, on your branding. She knows what region you’re in and what  compliance elements you need to take care of. And then she works as an internal concierge for the agents.

I think real estate is about to have its Netflix moment. Right now, if I go to Netflix, it’s highly personalized — my experience is very different from yours. But real estate is not really personalized right now. The agent and the buyers get all these alerts for listings, but 90% of them are irrelevant. Now with computer vision, with AI, you can get much better curation of what’s coming to you.

SW: Are you surprised at the pace that all of this is happening?

SH: I don’t think anybody in the world expected things to move as fast as they’re moving. And you can measure that on many different levels. We’ve never seen extreme computing the way it’s happening right now. It’s not just the pace of the product coming out, or the pace of the innovation — it’s the amount of energy and resources that are being consumed. And it’s just going to keep getting faster now.

SW: As a company, how do you keep up with this furious pace?  

SH: I think it’s very easy to get distracted and get excited and run after many things, especially if you are in a position that you can afford to do a little bit of that. As a company, we’re profitable, so that gives us room to think about what we can do. And having talented people — when you have those two things available, you can easily be distracted.

So I think part of the answer is to keep focusing on the problem set. We apply this methodology that came out of Harvard years ago called “jobs to be done.” I want my energy to be up, so I drink coffee. When you think about what listing agents do, for instance, their job is to sell that listing for the best price. Part of that job is to take the listing, package it, market it and generate interest around it. Then you get offers, negotiate and close the offer. But the goal wasn’t ever to create a marketing plan.

So we look at how we can solve this in a way that doesn’t require so much from the agent. And that’s where Lucy comes in. She knows the best practices of marketing — she’ll handle all of that to get to the end goal: selling the house.

SW: What keeps you up at night?

SH: Velocity and making sure that our momentum is there — just a sense of urgency.  

SW: What gets you up in the morning excited about what you guys are doing? What are you optimistic about as you look at the future?

SH: When I sold my last company and exited, one of the main reasons was because I was not waking up as excited anymore. And it had to do with the type of problems I was solving. The problems were a lot more around financing and operational. I’m a pretty passionate person and I’ve tried to hire people that are passionate about what they do. And we get to be creative.

I’m the type of person that quite frankly, I never leave work. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad, but I’m on 24/7.  I realized this early on and thought: I’d like to enjoy life, so how can I be on 24/7 and not be miserable? And I think it comes back to your people, to your culture, and to the problems you get to solve during the day. And if those three are there, going to work is like going to play — it’s fun and engaging.

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Mike Fratantoni, the chief economist and senior vice president of research and industry technology at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), addressed three major challenges in the housing market during testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives‘ Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. 

The biggest challenge in today’s housing market is the lack of inventory, Fratantoni said in his written statement on Wednesday.

“While the demographic fundamentals of the market continue to support strong housing demand for the next several years, the market is millions of units short of that needed to support this demand,” he said.

The silver lining, however, is that builders have picked up their pace of construction. New homes now account for roughly one-third of homes on the market, which compares to a more typical historical share of 10%.

As a result, a large delivery of multifamily units is expected over the next few years, but the recent trend in elevated mortgage rates has exacerbated this supply shortfall, Fratantoni explained.

Compounding the lack of supply is the proverbial “lock-in“ effect that has disincentivized homeowners to sell their current properties, thereby giving up a low mortgage rate and taking on a new loan at a much higher rate. 

“A homeowner that was able to refinance into a low-3% or high-2% mortgage rate is just much less likely to list their property,” Fratantoni told lawmakers. “It doesn’t mean they’re never going to list … but it’s a friction in the system, so it’s going to keep existing inventory much lower than it otherwise would be.

“That’s been a support to home prices, but for someone trying to get into the market, it’s really an obstacle.”

Concerns over Basel III Endgame

Fratantoni also expressed concern that the recent Basel III Endgame proposal would accelerate the trend of the mortgage market shifting away from depository institutions, particularly large banks, toward non-depositories and independent mortgage banks. 

The Basel Endgame proposal — issued by the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in July 2023 – boosted capital requirements for residential mortgage portfolios at large U.S. banks in comparison to international standards. 

Under the draft proposal, 40% to 90% risk weights would be assigned for large banks that issue residential mortgages, depending on the loan-to-value ratio, which is 20 basis points above the international standard. 

MBA’s comment letter highlighted the overly conservative risk weights on mortgages — particularly for low down payment loans favored by first-time homebuyers — and the lack of benefit for loans with mortgage insurance. It also mentioned the punitive treatment of mortgage servicing rights (MSRs) and the burdensome treatment of warehouse lending as being particularly negative for the mortgage market.

The Basel Endgame proposal would increase capital requirements on all three types of mortgage activities by banks — low down payment loans held on balance sheets, mortgage servicing and warehouse lending.

As a result, the Basel Endgame proposal “poses a significant risk to the stability of the housing finance market if it is not modified across all of these dimensions,” Frantantoni stated.

Rising cost of property insurance

Addressing the increased cost of property insurance for both prospective homebuyers and current homeowners is a priority for the MBA.

“The lack of availability and cost of homeowners insurance … it’s not only impacting the ability of borrowers to qualify for a loan, but increasing payments for existing homeowners to such an extent really puts them on an unstable path, so it really is front and center for us right now,” Fratantoni told lawmakers.

The average cost to insure a $300,000 home surged by 12% in 2023, reaching $1,770 per year, according to an Insurify report

Certain insurance carriers have also limited their participation in natural disaster-prone states like California and Florida, given the increases in risks and costs.

Over the past 18 months, seven of the 12 largest insurance companies by market share in California have either paused or restricted new policies in the state, highlighted by the departures of State Farm and Allstate in June 2023.

Due to these departures and price hikes, the California FAIR Plan, the state’s insurer of last resort, has seen enrollment double over the past few years.

“Although these increases in premiums and reductions in availability of insurance have been concentrated in certain markets at this point, the concerns regarding property insurance continue to build for our lender members in the residential, multifamily and commercial sectors — and for all their customers,” Fratantoni said.

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Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced a settlement agreement in the Sitzer Burnett case that would take effect in July. For those who missed the declarations that this outcome will render transacting real estate almost free, protect consumers and make homeownership affordable once again, the settlement does none of that. Here’s the truth.

False: The NAR settlement forces brokers to reduce their compensation.

The settlement in no way establishes a standard or limitation on Realtors for what they may charge, nor services they elect to deliver. Those fees have always been negotiable and there has never been any collective bargaining. In every housing market, there is a wide variety of fees just as there are levels of marketing, service and competence. 

False: The NAR settlement will, for the first time, allow sellers to no longer pay compensation for an agent bringing the buyer.

There has never been an obligation for a seller to pay buyer agent compensation, yet it is a practice that’s worked well. A past rule requiring an offer of some amount of compensation was a rule of display on a Realtor-owned MLS, yet it could have been as low as $1. That limitation was removed and today the MLS accepts all listings, regardless of buyer agent consideration.

False: The settlement prohibits sellers from paying a commission to a buyer’s agent and relieves sellers of the financial burden.

The mandate restricts properties with an offer of buyer agent compensation from displaying on association-owned MLS, yet the practice can’t be restricted in any other form of marketing. Sellers may still elect to pay buyer agent compensation to differentiate their properties. While sellers can elect not to pay buyer agent compensation, that doesn’t mean they will avoid the economics as buyers may write into any offer a contingency requiring the seller to cover the cost or request other concessions.

False: The settlement will serve to meaningfully lower prices and make homeownership affordable again.

Values in real estate are determined by supply and demand. Fees in a real estate transaction represent additional expenses, yet these include not only commissions but many other related charges. As an example, should real estate commissions be reduced by 1% because of compression, that $500,000 home will now cost $495,000. Not only is the potential impact marginal at best, but do you think the seller now believes the home is worth less and will happily give the difference to the buyer? The reason homeownership is increasingly less affordable is that homes in our market have significantly risen in value these last few years.

Questionable: The NAR settlement is a win for buyers who will now be able to negotiate the fee for representation.

For readers who have purchased homes, it is more than likely you were happy to have the seller compensate your agent so you didn’t have to. For buyers who had to provide the down payment and closing expenses, having the commission paid by the seller and incorporated in the home price allowed them to finance the amount over time instead of coming up with additional cash at closing.

False: The NAR settlement will result in significant restitution to consumers who were “harmed” over recent years in their transactions by Realtors.

The settlement is huge, yet when one divides the amount by number of potentially qualifying consumers it works out to about $10 per person. Those benefiting are the attorneys who have submitted a request to the court for over $80 million in fees.

As a real estate professional for over 40 years, I have had the privilege of working with Realtors who represent the public in what is likely their largest investment. What I have witnessed are the countless situations where an agent has gone above and beyond to help buyers realize their dreams and sellers maximize their returns, often serving in ways far beyond their job description.

Everyone would like to see costs lowered, yet I do not see the Department of Justice going after attorneys or other professions we wish would charge less. I believe in the concept of free enterprise. If one is willing to assume the risk of running a business, one may do so at rates that allow a reasonable return for the capital investment and time. As my dad would say during his 60-year career, “you wake up every day unemployed and have to find a job. Then you spend out of pocket and don’t make a cent unless you achieve someone else’s goals.”

The brokerage community has always adapted to best represent buyers and sellers whenever there is a shift in the environment. We will again. Yet, when an industry I love is singled out and the justification is for false reasons, I will not be quiet.

Budge Huskey is CEO of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Florida and Vice Chairman of Peerage Realty.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the author of this story: Budge Huskey at

To contact the editor of this story: Tracey Velt at

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Ally Home, the residential mortgage lending arm of Ally Bank, is offering a $5,000 grant for eligible homebuyers in the select markets of Charlotte, Detroit and Philadelphia, the company announced on Tuesday. The upfront lump sum can be applied toward a down payment, closing costs or other expenses related to the homebuying process. 

Ally is partnering with HouseCanary, a tech-forward appraisal firm, to help consumers identify grant-eligible properties using the Ally ComeHome search portal. Ally created a one-stop shop with all the tools, resources and products a homebuyer might need, its news release stated.

“Buying a home is an unattainable dream for more than half of U.S. residents, which is why we strive to make homeownership more accessible to a wider range of individuals and families,“ Glenn Brunker, president of Ally Home, said in a statement.

“By bridging the affordability gap and easing the burden of the upfront costs of purchasing, our grants will help more people realize their dream of being a homeowner with the ability to enter the market, build equity and create generational wealth.“

The Ally home grant will be available for prospective homebuyers who are purchasing a primary residence. It will target individuals with an income less than or equal to 100% of the area median income (AMI) in the Charlotte, Detroit and Philadelphia areas, with possible expansion to come in the future.

There is a possibility to combine the grant with other offerings from Ally, including the Fannie Mae HomeReady Mortgage program. It enables consumers to purchase a house with a 3% down payment. Ally is considering expanding the program to more markets in the future.

“By incorporating our ComeHome technology into Ally’s website, we’re equipping Ally’s customers with a user-friendly platform that makes finding grant-eligible properties a simple and efficient process,“ Jeremy Sicklick, co-founder and CEO at HouseCanary, said in a statement.

Ally launched its ComeHome platform in collaboration with HouseCanary in late 2023. The platform has  53,000 users and continues to grow.

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