Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to express my appreciation to you and to Ranking Member Sarbanes for agreeing to hold this hearing on the rule proposed by HUD regarding the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). This proposed rule seeks to make it easier for consumers to compare prices and get the best loan possible. Unfortunately, the current costs and complexities of the mortgage settlement process have created a barrier to homeownership for many Americans. Secretary Martinez and his staff should be applauded for their efforts to address these issues.
In recent years, the housing industry has supported and propped up our struggling economy. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low, the national homeownership rate is on the rise, and other countries look to our mortgage finance system as a model to be emulated. Naturally, changes to this process will raise questions from homebuyers and from businesses involved in the mortgage service industry.
Unfortunately, the mortgage settlement process is very complex, making it difficult to fully grasp the potential impact of this initiative. Some have stated that the proposed rule would create an imbalance on the playing field among mortgage originators, which could have unintended consequences for industry and consumers. That is not the intent of this proposed rule.
I believe each of my colleagues would agree that an effort to give homebuyers more options, to provide greater transparency, and to lower prices should be one of our highest priorities.
I hope this hearing allows all of us to gain a better understanding of how this new RESPA proposal will affect our housing and mortgage markets as we work together to ensure that more Americans are able to realize the dream of homeownership.