Don't forget about first-time homebuyers

A proposal to reform the mortgage market

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As federal regulators have proposed a 20 percent down payment requirement for many borrowers to secure a home loan, let me be positive. This is a great idea — in fact it might be low — for speculators and investors purchasing residential real estate. Those in this market segment are sophisticated, willing and able to take risks. They can weather the unexpected.

Even at 20 percent down, speculators may consider walking if they purchase preconstruction homes or condominiums and cannot close before interest rates climb so high they cannot cover their monthly cash flow. The difference between them and everybody else is that they can handle the losses. They are the first in to purchase presales in a good market, and the first out when the market goes south.

But the first-time homebuyer is the bread and butter, the base, the market segment that needs the help. Nothing down is not the answer. Neither is 20 percent. And for too long they have been set to fail if things did not go as planned. Mortgage to the max, then refinance to the max, so the lender keeps making money on those fees and points.

Regulatory proposals aside, what is truly needed is an understanding of the market — especially the first-time homebuyer. First-time homebuyers, as they start moving back into the market, need a program that makes sense. They will not be able to depend on refinancing every few years. They need a sound program now.