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Hard-hit states key to housing rebound

Expert: 'Collateral damage is amazing'

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By JOSEPH KIRSCHKE WASHINGTON -- Prominent real estate and policy experts sounded unanimous yet guarded optimism during a session this week at the National Association of Realtors annual midyear conference. The states now in deepest trouble -- notably Florida, Nevada and California, which led the collapse -- may yet lead the nation's housing market back to prosperity, according to some members of the 16-member panel that was featured during a Real Estate Summit on Tuesday here at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Regardless, radical changes are needed for improvement of the nation's housing market, and there were varying opinions about to how to get there. Tom Lawler, founder of Lawler Economic & Housing Consulting LLC, voiced concern that dangerously low staffing levels at mortgage services companies are hindering homeowners from getting approved loans in a timely fashion. "It's horrible if you need to deal with problem loans," he said. Panelists concurred that...