Friday Five: Warren Buffet Touts Homes Over Stocks, Home Contracts Up

Warren Buffet gives the thumbs-up to homes as an investment, while regulators and legislators debate whether to reduce principal on troubled loans.

Positive signs abound in this week’s headline roundup as billionaire investor Warren Buffet recommends home ownership as a good long-term investment. Buyers must be on the same wavelength as pending home sale contracts rise to their highest level in two years. Still, lending standards remain tight and the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency is resisting White House calls to allow struggling home owners to reduce their loan balances.

CNBC: Warren Buffet: I’d Buy Up ‘A Couple Hundred Thousand’ Single-Family Homes If I Could

Warren Buffett says along with equities, single-family homes are a very attractive investment right now. Appearing live on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Buffett says if held for a long period of time and purchased at low rates, houses are even better than stocks. He advises buyers to take out a 30-year mortgage and refinance if rates go down.

Los Angeles Times: Principal Reduction Isn’t Ideal Fix for Foreclosures, Official Says

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator pushed back against mounting pressure that the mortgage finance giants start reducing the principal owed on troubled loans, insisting the practice could hurt taxpayers and that alternatives were better at avoiding foreclosures. Lawmakers have maintained that the agency needed to direct Fannie and Freddie to write down the mortgage principal on loans that exceeded the value of homes when struggling borrowers were facing foreclosures.

Baltimore Sun: REALTORS® to Rally Against Proposed Change Affecting Md. Mortgage Interest Deduction

In Maryland, REALTORS® have kicked off a campaign to keep legislators from approving a budget proposal that would reduce the amount of itemized deductions higher-income Marylanders could claim on their state taxes, a move they say would effectively cap the mortgage interest deduction. The Maryland Association of REALTORS® says this would effectively limit the mortgage-interest deduction, a big piece of what people typically itemize, as well as deductions for property taxes.

Boston Globe: Contracts for Sales of Homes on Rise

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in January to the highest level in nearly two years, supporting the view that the housing market is gradually coming back.

Washington Post (Wonkblog): Are Creditworthy Americans Having Trouble Getting Mortgages?

Most everyone can agree that mortgage lending standards were too loose during the housing boom and should be tightened to keep people from buying homes they can’t afford. But has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction? In testimony before the House financial services committee this week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke pointed out that tight standards have yet to unwind even for prime mortgages that are eligible for government guarantees.