The globalization of the real estate market may be led by Realtors, not lenders, if the National Association of Realtors achieves the goals it set at its annual convention here.
International involvement was heavily stressed at the convention, with more than 50 nations represented and about 1,000 of the 18,000 people attending having come from outside the United States, according to Art Godi, association president.
"The American dream isn't limited to the United States. It's just common sense - international is the way to go," he said. Mr. Godi cited immigrant first-time homebuyers here and the appraisal of South American properties for Florida residents as two growing markets that rely on a global perspective.
The association, which bills itself as the largest professional organization in the United States, used the convention to highlight its "bilateral cooperation agreements" with former communist countries in Eastern Europe.
Representatives from Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia signed such agreements at the convention's international symposium. They hope to learn from the mature, regulated structure of the U.S. real estate market, representatives said.
Homeownership and reduction of poverty are crucial to stabilizing emerging economies, said Nobel laureate Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica, who addressed the symposium.
"Currently, many countries are experiencing growing pains ... but the effects of that cannot be limited to one area," he said. "Poverty, as we all know, needs no passport to travel.
"Marxism negated the right to own private property. Owning property, a house, a home, has been one of the building blocks of peace in my country. The future of human relations is tied to cities," and the realty agents' profession is "fundamental" to ensuring the stabilization of cities, he said.
Mortgage lenders have made a significant contribution to the stabilization of the real estate market in Central America. But in Eastern Europe, more infrastructure needs to be established, conferees said.
Many former Soviet bloc countries have no title insurance, no appraisal standards, and outrageous mortgage loan rates. Inflation rates in four of the five countries participating in the cooperation agreement vary from 9% to 23%, a representative said. The fifth, Bulgaria, has seen interest rates of 200% to 300%.
"There are a lot of people in Poland who would like to buy homes, but cannot afford them," said an observer. "If we can use the United States' experience, it would be very good." The World Bank has been helpful in promoting homeownership, but "we need something more," he said.