Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NAR Needs Congressional Investigation

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been one of the least scathed of the complicit actors coming out of the Great Housing Collapse.

The financial industry was decimated with millions losing their jobs and hundreds of firms and institutions going bust, the government sponsored enterprises went belly-up with equity investors taking a ferocious haircut, Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial, got a $67.5 million fine (small slap on the wrist for him and so far beat a criminal investigation) and even the once mighty Alan Greenspan was knocked down many pegs for his lack of leadership during the bubble years.

But what of the NAR?

They had their hands all over the housing game… in fact, in many ways they were the most responsible for whipping up the frenzy that drove housing parabolic during the bubble years.

From sponsoring the “flipping this and that house” shows on cable television, to consistently running newspaper, TV and radio ads designed to pump the financial benefits of home ownership, to lobbying for pro-housing and pro-homeownership initiatives through their Realtor political action committee (RPAC), to just plain old spin control of the important data points they release every month (existing home sales, pending home sales, etc.) the Realtors worked tirelessly to control as much of the housing PR as possible and their efforts were extremely effective.

But yet, what price have they paid for their notable contributions to the housing bubble and subsequent collapse that nearly brought down the entire global financial system?

Sure, tens of thousands of Realtors are out of work but frankly the agent population was way over the top during the peak years with most of the job losers having only been in the business for at most a few years prior to the collapse.

Shouldn’t the organization itself be held accountable in some way for its action during the housing mania?

Shouldn’t there be a congressional investigation into the matter?

If an investigation revealed the Realtor organization as firmly complicit in the buildup of the nation’s housing distortion, wouldn’t that work to rein-in this self interested and irresponsible private industry group?

Finally, the NAR controls some of the most important monthly housing data releases and with them the privilege of interpreting the housing trends for nation of media organizations that all but “cut and paste” the verbatim transcripts into their “articles”… shouldn’t the Census Bureau take over that important responsibility… they already release the new homes report, the housing starts and new residential construction report, the residential vacancies and homeownership report, retail sales, e-commerce sales, manufacturing and trade inventory and sales… why not the existing and pending home sales reports?