Alum interviews Obama about housing market

Sarah Novicoff

Spencer Rascoff ’93, CEO of online real estate database Zillow, conducted a Q&A session with President Barack Obama Aug. 7 regarding the housing market and its rebound from the 2008 collapse.

The interview took place at the Hilton Hotel in Woodland Hills.

Thousands of homeowners, renters and prospective buyers from around the country submitted questions to be asked via social media

Topics ranged from mortgage interest rates to refinancing to the Obama Administration’s plan to further improve the market in the next four years.

Zillow then picked eight questions that “represented common housing themes,” Rascoff said.

Obama and his staff did not know the questions prior to the interview.

“What we saw in terms of the plunge in home prices in the midst of the great recession was something we hadn’t seen in a very long time,” Obama said, in response to a question from Andrew Houston in Gainesville, Florida about interest rates and the 2008 collapse. “And so what we did over the first three and a half, four years of my administration was throw everything that we could at helping homeowners who had seen their houses go underwater to slowly build back that equity.”

The forum, part of a continuing partnership between Zillow and the Obama administration to further inform the public about the housing market and rebound after the 2008 collapse, was broadcast exclusively on, and Yahoo!. A full transcript of the interview can be found on

“Meeting the President of the United States is one of those things you hope to check off your bucket list, but never know if you will. It was surreal right up until he entered the room, led and followed by his Secret Service detail. He was a very kind, personable man that I was honored to meet,” Rascoff said.

“In all honesty, my speech and debate training from Harvard-Westlake has been invaluable throughout my career,” Rascoff added. “In fact, I thought of [forensics teacher Tedd] Woods the morning of my Obama discussion because he always told his students to ‘Pause and Smile’ before beginning a speech. I had the teleprompter operator add those words to the teleprompter and right before I introduced Obama, I did indeed pause and smile. Mr. Woods would be proud.”