Housing has long been the traditional cornerstone of the nation's economy. Over the past two years, that cornerstone has cracked. No economic recovery can truly be complete until we address the housing problems. Yet in every community across the country, there is the potential for a natural partnership that can lay a stronger foundation for recovery.

Last month, I was on a panel at the National Association of Realtors' summit on how to strengthen and stabilize the U.S. mortgage system. In the audience were hundreds of real estate agents, representing neighborhoods full of prospective homebuyers. The common concern from those in the audience was the availability of mortgages for their clients.

It is a shared concern among Realtors everywhere: in the 2010 NAR Member Profile study, 34% of respondents stated that what most constrained their clients' ability to buy a home was difficulty in obtaining a mortgage. With so many national mortgage brokers out of business or curtailing their lending, Realtors should work to develop relationships with their local lending institutions to ensure that responsible mortgages are available to those who need them.

The local Realtor and the local lender remain the natural fit. Both are active, involved members of the community, and both know their local markets.

It is this on-the-ground aspect of the community lender that should appeal most to the Realtor — at the real estate summit, Realtors recounted their bad experiences in dealing with the call center service of many larger, national mortgage lenders. There is no need to deal with the frustrations of calling an "800" number when your banker is located right down the street.

This lender a few doors away is interested in working with Realtors. In 2008, the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York ran a survey of Realtors and our local members. More than half of our members reported being interested in working with, and increasing mortgage referrals from, Realtors. Realtors should act on this interest. The community lender model works.

It is the community lender that has survived the credit crisis by being conservative and diligent toward making the best lending decisions for both the bank and the client. And by following this model, the local Realtor and the community lender can partner to put the families of their communities in the right home with a suitable mortgage.

Responsible Realtors and responsible community lenders working together will help ensure that our economic recovery is achievable and sustainable and fix the cracked cornerstone.

These two vital community groups must reach out to each other to discuss how they might partner together. It was, and should again be, a natural partnership, one that will benefit communities nationwide, and one that can lay a new foundation for a strong future.

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