Realtors sort out setbacks to industry from US actions

Home buyers and sellers have already received two stinging blows from the federal government this year, real estate industry leaders charge.

In the spring came the final report issued by the President's Commission on Housing, which advocated new advantages for the savings-and-loan industry, rather than measures that would help Americans acquire more housing, real estate officials say.

''The commission's recommendations raise serious doubts about the future of savings-and-loan institutions as the nation's primary mortgage lenders,'' says Julio Laguarta, president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

More recently, the US Supreme Court affirmed the right of federally chartered savings-and-loan associations to enforce due-on-sale clauses in their mortgage notes. This, in effect, makes it impossible for a home buyer to assume a seller's existing loan and rate of interest when the loan was made by a federally chartered S&L.

The court decision could have a major impact on the home-resale market. Last year, for example, 42 percent of the 2.3 million existing-home sales involved assumable mortgages. And nearly half of those mortgage-assumption sales involved a first-time home buyer.

Some real estate leaders feel the two events are related. They charge that the report of the President's commission influenced the Supreme Court decision.

One of the commission's recommendations was that the federal government take action to prevent or discourage states from restricting the enforcement of due-on-sale clauses in home-mortgage loans.

Now that that action has been taken, in the form of the Supreme Court decision, real estate leaders are assessing its effect.

''We are extremely disappointed with the decision, because it could significantly increase the cost of housing at a time when many Americans do not qualify for home mortgages because of high interest rates at thrift institutions ,'' asserts William North, NAR vice-president and general counsel.

Sep Sterpa, president of the California Association of Realtors, declares: ''It is unfortunate the US Supreme Court's decision favors the S&Ls rather than home buyers and sellers. This adds another dimension to the difficulties faced by those wishing to buy or sell a home, and compounds the problems caused by high interest rates and lack of mortgage financing.''

When the President's Commission on Housing issued its final report, NAR president Laguarta expressed his concern about its recommendations on the right of S&Ls to exercise due-on-sale clauses.

''Imposition of due-on-sale would effectively do away with about one-third of all existing home sales now occurring,'' he said.

Mr. Laguarta particularly objected to the composition of the commission, saying it was top-heavy with representatives from the savings-and-loan industry.

In addition, the commission chairman, William F. McKenna, has had close ties to the thrift and banking industry for many years.

Mr. McKenna, a California lawyer, is a member and chairman of the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, one of 12 regional banks. He has represented federal savings-and-loan associations in their fight against restrictions on the exercise of due-on-sale clauses in mortgage notes.

The final report from the President's Commission on Housing and the decision by the Supreme Court clearly signal some new advantages for the S&Ls.

And it's just possible that these events could translate into a positive factor for home buyers and sellers in the future. At least that's the rationale of S&L industry leaders who say S&Ls will ultimately have more money available for home loans and lower interest rates as a result.

Meanwhile, real estate leaders say they hope the federally chartered S&Ls will not exercise their new court-supported right to demand the payoff of loans when houses are sold, but instead will offer the buyer a ''blended rate'' - higher than the existing loan rate, but lower than the currently prevailing rate.

Without such support, they predict an even slower recovery for the sharply depressed housing market.

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