Unprecedented Joint Effort Will Help Revitalize
California's Troubled Economy
24-hour "800" Number Activated To Provide Free Homebuying
Educational Material To Consumers Statewide
LOS ANGELES, July 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Many of California's largest lenders, trade associations and housing industry players have joined forces to launch a major homebuying education campaign that offers valuable free information to consumers throughout California and will help revitalize the state's troubled economy.
A key component of the campaign is a 24-hour, toll-free phone number -- 800-500-FIND -- which consumers statewide can call now to obtain comprehensive information about the homebuying process. The toll-free number and other details about the "CALIFORNIANS ARE FINDING OUT ..." educational campaign were announced today at a news conference in Los Angeles.
Senior executives from the following 14 companies, trade associations and state agencies participated in today's announcement of the campaign:
American Savings Bank; California Association of REALTORS; California Building Industry Association; California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency; California Chamber of Commerce; California Housing Finance Agency; California League of Savings Institutions; Chicago Title Insurance Co.; Countrywide Funding Corp.; Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County; Fannie Mae; Great Western Bank; Home Savings of America; and Wells Fargo Bank.
These companies and trade associations are among the 23 entities to-date which have joined the American Dream Coalition. The coalition, which was formed by the California Association of REALTORS, is working to notify the public about the 800-500-FIND toll-free hotline and to educate consumers about the homebuying process through a wide variety of methods, including homebuying seminars and advertising.
"With the launch today of the 1-800-500-FIND hotline and our joint educational campaign, hundreds of thousands of Californians will now have the tools they need to understand the complex homebuying process," said Walt McDonald, president of the California Association of REALTORS (C.A.R.). "Consumers who fully understand how the process of buying a home works will be in the best position to explore opportunities in today's environment of ultra-low interest rates and favorable housing prices," said McDonald.
Research results show that many renters feel overwhelmed by the homebuying process, afraid to get started or embarrassed to display possible ignorance. Now, with one phone call to a toll-free number, consumers can obtain a comprehensive free brochure that answers key questions about the homebuying process.
The complimentary brochure mailed to consumers who call 800-500-FIND, contains three key elements: 1) answers to 12 questions consumers commonly ask about the homebuying process; 2) a worksheet to help consumers estimate the approximate home purchase price and loan amount they can afford; and 3) a glossary of 33 frequently used real estate terms.
"Although first-time homebuyers accounted for half of all home sales in California last year, it's clear there are many, many renters who mistakenly believe they can't afford to buy a home in our state," said James F. Montgomery, chairman and chief executive of Great Western Financial Corp., parent of Great Western Bank. "Through the efforts of the coalition announced today, we're encouraging renters to take just a few moments in the comfort of their living rooms to find out what it takes to buy a home. If we can demystify the process by providing basic information, we think renters will reach their own conclusions about the tremendous opportunities available for first-time buyers," Montgomery said.
Impact on California's Economy
Many experts believe that the "CALIFORNIANS ARE FINDING OUT ..." educational campaign will help revitalize California's economy. Consumers who explore their options and decide to purchase homes will help create jobs because of the tremendous ripple effect that the housing industry has on the overall economy. Every home sale affects many related sectors of the economy -- creating everything from furniture sales to business for moving companies and landscapers.
"This consumer education program is exactly what California needs to stimulate a lagging home purchase market," said Richard H. Deihl, chairman and chief executive officer of Home Savings of America. "The number of homes sold relates to proper information and understanding of elements driving the market. When consumer attitudes shift -- and this program may be the catalyst -- we'll see a rapid recovery in the housing market in California," Deihl said.
"Housing is the linchpin of the California economy," said Mario J. Antoci, chairman and chief executive officer of American Savings Bank, and chairman of the California League of Savings Institutions. "If we can find appropriate ways to help homebuyers, especially first-time buyers and low-income families, the result will be economic stimulus and job creation benefiting all Californians," Antoci said.
An improvement in the California economy also will help boost the national economic recovery.
"It's certainly no secret that California's economy is still struggling, and poor economic times here have a significant impact on the national economy," said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County. "A turnaround in California will, without question, mean a stronger economic recovery for the entire nation. The "CALIFORNIANS ARE FINDING OUT..." program should provide a big shot of adrenaline to the housing industry, and the entire California economy," Kyser said.
"As a partner in this joint educational effort, we are working to ensure that all Californians are able to learn about how they can get started down the path to homeownership," said Jim Ketcham, senior vice president in charge of mortgage lending statewide for Wells Fargo Bank. "We are convinced that there is a growing market for first-time homebuyers in California. In fact, by next year we plan to virtually double the amount of first-mortgage loans we originate in the state," Ketcham added.
Consumer Attitudes About Homeownership
Recent surveys have shown that homeownership remains an overriding goal for Americans. It is a goal that cuts across all age, income, racial and neighborhood lines.
A survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners for the California League of Savings Institutions found that, despite concerns about jobs and the economy, Californians overwhelmingly believe it makes more sense to own than to rent a home. The majority of those surveyed believe that, because of lower home prices, now is a good time to buy a home. Seventy-six percent of the survey respondents considered "owning your own home" to be a "very important" lifetime goal. That compares, for example, with 49 percent who rated "being able to retire at 60" as a very important lifetime goal.
Fannie Mae's 1993 National Housing Survey found that 50 percent of the respondents believe this is a "very good time to buy a home" -- up from 38 percent last year. Seventy-four percent of Americans believe that homeownership is within reach today of people age 30 to 35. The Fannie Mae survey also found that 50 percent of Americans lack an understanding of the homebuying process and are uncomfortable with their knowledge of the process.
"We believe that the "CALIFORNIANS ARE FINDING OUT ..." campaign is an excellent way to break down barriers and meet the need for information and knowledge that clearly exists with consumers," said John Fulford, senior vice president in charge of Western region operations for Fannie Mae. "Fannie Mae applauds the California Association of REALTORS for its leadership in organizing the American Dream Coalition and this campaign to educate and help Californians," Fulford said.
Countrywide Funding Corp., which has mortgage lending offices nationwide, also is a part of the coalition. "Every Californian needs and wants a place to call home," said Angelo Mozilo, president and chief executive officer of Countrywide Funding. "Homeownership helps to create a stable neighborhood, society, state and country. This campaign will help many Californians obtain the American Dream of homeownership," Mozilo said.
Additional Comments From Partners
The following are comments from additional coalition partners and a representative from the Wilson Administration who participated in the campaign's launch news conference:
-- Richard E. Madock, senior vice president and Los Angeles-area manager of Chicago Title Insurance Co., said: "This state has always been a place of innovation and dreams. Chicago Title is proud to be a member of the team that will enable more individuals to invest in and profit from owning a piece of California. When a coalition of this caliber comes together, the foundation for a new beginning is immediately laid."
-- Hon. John Seymour, executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency, said: "The California Housing Finance Agency is actively involved in the "CALIFORNIANS ARE FINDING OUT ..." consumer education campaign. For many California families, owning their first home seemed to be an impossible dream. But today, for the first time in decades, the opportunity is within reach for hundreds of thousands of Californians."
-- Kirk West, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said: "Nothing is more important to California's economy than to get housing back on track. The housing industry is extremely labor intensive and a very important generator of revenue for the state and local governments. This program is very exciting, and businesses of all sizes throughout the state should work aggressively to inform their employees about the information available by calling the toll-free phone number."
-- O.B. Johnson, president of the California Building Industry Association, said: "There are many excellent homebuying opportunities being missed throughout the state because of lack of knowledge or understanding. This coalition will bring vital information to consumers about the advantages of homeownership and the fact that buying opportunities are better than they have been in many years. We are very enthusiastic about being a part of this important effort. We must restart California's economic engine, and this is an excellent way to do it."
-- Thomas S. Sayles, secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, and a member of Gov. Pete Wilson's cabinet, said: "The state is proud to participate in this effort to inform Californians of the wonderful opportunity they have to own their own homes. Creating homeowners creates jobs and stronger communities. This program will help do all of those things."
The following, in alphabetical order, are brief descriptions of the companies and organizations whose executives are quoted in this news release:
American Savings Bank, with more than $17 billion in assets, is considered by the major ratings agencies as one of the top savings institutions in the nation. Irvine, Calif.-based American Savings has close to 170 retail savings offices and 33 residential loan centers in California.
The California Association of REALTORS is a statewide trade association with 115,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.
The California Building Industry Association is a 5,500 company member trade association representing the home building industry at the state capitol.
The California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency includes the Departments of Transportation (Caltrans), Motor Vehicles, Banking, Corporations, Real Estate and Housing and Community Development, as well as the Highway Patrol. The agency has more than 40,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $7 billion.
The California Chamber of Commerce is a statewide business organization representing 6,000 companies, 160 trade associations and 425 local Chambers of Commerce.
The California Housing Finance Agency was created in 1975 by an act of the State Legislature as a statewide affordable housing lender. The agency provides mortgage loans for the first-time homebuyer and financing for affordable multifamily housing projects from funds derived from the sale of tax-exempt notes and bonds. No tax dollars are used to repay the bonds. Instead, revenue from the repayment of mortgage loans is used to repay the bonds.
The California League of Savings Institutions is the statewide trade association for California's savings industry. The primary business of savings institutions in California is to provide financing to meet the housing and homeownership needs of borrowers in communities throughout the state.
The Chicago Title and Trust Family of Title Insurers is the nation's largest title insurance organization with annual revenues in excess of $1 billion and more than 4,000 locations nationwide, and includes Chicago Title Insurance Co., the Ticor Title Insurance Companies and Security Union Title Insurance Co. Together, these companies provide title insurance and related services throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Canada.
Countrywide Funding Corp. is the nation's largest mortgage lender. Financing the American Dream, Countrywide originates and services single-family home loans, which are sold to the secondary market. Founded in 1969, Countrywide employs more than 3,700 people at its Pasadena, Calif., headquarters and in more than 290 offices nationwide.
The Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County is a private, not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is leadership in the retention and creation of jobs and the economic base in the Los Angeles area.
Fannie Mae is a congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company and the nation's largest source of home mortgage funds. Fannie Mae provided more than $58 billion in mortgage money for some 500,000 families in California last year.
With assets of $38 billion, Great Western Financial Corp. is a diversified financial services company operating nearly 1,100 mortgage lending, retail banking and consumer finance offices nationwide. The company's principal subsidiary, Great Western Bank, is a home mortgage- oriented consumer bank which operates extensive banking branch networks in California and Florida.
Home Savings of America, based in Irwindale, Calif., is the nation's largest savings institution. With $50 billion in assets and more than $38 billion in deposits, it operates 367 savings branches in nine states and 88 mortgage lending offices in 13 states.
Wells Fargo Bank is the principal subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co. The San Francisco-based bank is the second-largest in California and seventh-largest in the United States.
/CONTACTS: Jeff Hershberger or Lotus Lou of the California Association of REALTORS, 213-739-8304; Robert Rivinius of the California Building Industry Association, 916-443-7933; Bob Pipkin of the California Business, Transportation & Housing Agency, 916-323-5485; Kirk West of the California Chamber of Commerce, 916-444-6670; Bill Cranham of the California Housing Finance Agency, 213-736-2355; Kathy Wedeking of the California League of Savings Institutions, 310-670-6300, ext. 117; Richard Madock of Chicago Title Insurance Co., 818-307-7052; Catherine Zimring, 818-666-3843, or Janet Otsuki, 818-666-4267, both of Countrywide Funding Corp.; Chandra Shah of the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County, 213-462-5111; Mark Adams of Fannie Mae, 818-396-5335; Roger Cruzen of Great Western Bank, 800-523-4888; Mary