To: The Washington Post
This week the Washington Post embarked on a series of stories addressing "black wealth" relative to real estate ownership in Prince George's County. As a representative of the trade association representing over 2900 Prince George's County real estate professionals, and the only voice for the homeowners they serve, we as REALTORS®
would like to offer our observations on the subject matter.
The Post chose to approach the story from a racial perspective as opposed to addressing the systematic oppression of a county. As a veteran real estate professional practicing in Prince George's County for over 30 years I find this article disheartening as it lacks commentary on several key components.
- Most importantly the accurate assessment of value, which is an appraisal issue
- Misunderstanding of equity
- Definition of wealth
The first article, "A Shattered Foundation," January 24th, 2015, does not address the true problem at hand. It is a subjective commentary, much of which is not backed by facts, and does not offer any insight into how we really got to this position and how we see our way out of it.
The inaccurate valuation of homes in Prince George's County is the KEY component to the suppression of value and GROWTH in the county. Buyer Qualification is the NEXT component, with homeowners who may have only been able to purchase because of the availability of sub-prime loans, and may not have qualified for traditional financing. Not to mention the potential of home prices during that period being overinflated, where some purchasers bought homes valued at $450K with the intent to sell them a year later for $550K; however, because of the credit crash in 2007 new buyers were unable to get financing to purchase and values plummeted.
As a result some consumers experienced "Loss of Equity," not WEALTH. Equity in a home is a perceived value. If you choose to borrow on that value, you may not be able to repay if terms, personal situation or values change. Undoubtedly one might find themselves underwater. The only way this perceived value, or equity becomes WEALTH is if it is not being borrowed. Monetary gain or "wealth" in one's home is built over time. Consider the 15- or 30-year mortgage; during its term a homeowner pays down debt while earning modest gains in value or appreciation. This is called "building equity." Under this scenario the end result is a tangible asset or true "wealth equity."
Lack of information led to the misuse of equity that, combined with the market crisis (credit crash) created financial hardship for some consumers, forcing them into foreclosure and others into short sales. That is a fact. As a result, our values are challenged because the appraisal process is not making the accurate adjustment for properties that are NOT in distress as it should
, thus dragging our overall VALUE down and hindering our recovery. We believe that a study may be necessary into appraisal practices that appear to place disparaging values upon Prince George's County properties versus comparable properties in neighboring jurisdictions.
A definitive fact contributing to the slower rebound in Prince George's County and more widely across the state is Maryland's slow foreclosure process which allows homeowners in default to linger in legal limbo. In contrast, Virginia has a faster foreclosure process that moves homes with defaulted loans more quickly into new owner's hands rather than allowing them to sit and deteriorate, further depressing neighborhood values. According to the Washington Post (reported in February 2014), Virginia ranked near the bottom of the list with a foreclosure start rate well below the national average and Maryland ranked highest.
The condition of our marketplace with regard to foreclosures and predatory lending practices is well documented. Thanks to legislative action at the Federal and state level, predatory lending practices as described in the Post article are, at this time, virtually non-existent. Through a settlement with national banks, $100 million in housing incentives are available, right now, for qualifying buyers seeking to locate in Prince George's County. We are optimistic that this effort will aid in our recovery.
Wealth in Prince George's County is not "lost." Development at Westphalia in South County and Konterra in North County will bring expansive residential, commercial and retail development. A new hospital complex in Largo, the MGM addition at National Harbor, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development relocation to New Carrollton and quite possibly the FBI headquarters to Greenbelt or Landover is
our future. Prince George's County is poised for greatness, and with it comes opportunities to build wealth for all citizens
Thank you for considering our concerns.
Desiree Callender, President
Prince George's County Association of REALTORS®
"The Voice For Real Estate"