Greenspan Takes Some Blame for Financial Meltdown
When former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan stepped down in 2006, he was widely respected for his steady stewardship of the U.S. economy under four presidents. But on Thursday, Greenspan offered a partial mea culpa for today's financial market turmoil.
Mortgage Loans Rise At Credit Unions
California's credit unions, bucking the lending squeeze in commercial banks, saw their mortgage loan portfolios grow to nearly $54 billion in the third quarter of the year as they shifted to making more fixed-rate loans to new home buyers.
Fannie and Freddie Pumped Up By Fed
The central bank will buy $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities beginning in January, as part of a program announced in November.
Will Mortgage Rates Drop Again?
Will the latest nugget of news about the Federal Reserve's plan to buy mortgage bonds send home-loan rates plummeting again? Borrowers and analysts will be closely watching quotes from lenders Wednesday, especially because another key mortgage player is predicting a sharp decline.
Home Prices Shrivel Across The Country
Home prices in several major cities plummeted at the fastest annual rate on record as mounting unemployment and a rapid pace of foreclosures hampered a turnaround in the beleaguered housing market.
U.S. Throws GMAC $6 Billion Lifeline
In yet another move to prop up the crumbling U.S. auto industry, the government announced Monday that it will pump $6 billion into GMAC Financial Services, a financing company critical to the survival of General Motors.
Rough Times For Residential Real Estate Practices
A healthy residential real estate practice requires that new clients and fees come from a variety of different feeder sources, but many of those sources are shrinking or drying up completely. As such, 2009 will be a year in which there are many challenges for a residential real estate practitioner.
WaMu and Housing: The Power of Yes
WaMu should be the case study for students who want to understand what can go wrong during a housing bubble. The New York Times reported this weekend that the value of WaMu's bad loans reached $11.5 billion midyear, nearly tripling from $4.2 billion a year earlier.
What Ginnie Mae Has Done Right As Fannie And Freddie Go Wrong
Pick any recent crisis — man-made, natural, you name it — and before the dust has even settled people are choosing losers and winners, those with much to learn and those with much to teach.
Freddie Mac Names New Chief Credit Officer
Mortgage financier Freddie Mac named Raymond Romano its new chief credit officer on Monday.
HUD Approves $28 Million in Fla. Foreclosure Help
A federal agency is giving more than $28 million dollars to three Florida communities that have been slammed by high foreclosures and dropping home values.
Fed Study Finds 169 Mortgage Finance Companies Failed Last Year
Federal Reserve researchers found that 169 independent mortgage companies ceased operations in 2007, crimping credit to consumers as the economy plunged into a recession.
Commercial Real Estate Industry Asks Treasury for Govt. Bailout
The commercial real estate industry could face massive bankruptcies in 2009 if it does not receive “urgent” loans from the federal government, according to a November letter sent to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson from the top commercial real estate trade organizations.
Humbled By Our Ignorance
It's the end of an era. We know that 2008, much like 1932 or 1980, marks a dividing line for the American economy and society. But what lies on the other side is hazy at best. The great lesson of the past year is how little we understand and can control the economy.
US Economy's Gloom Expected to Begin Lifting By Late '09
The economic storm that has engulfed the United States – and the world – is expected to continue for most of 2009. If there is a silver lining, it is that as the year progresses, economists expect the rate of decline in the economy to start to slow – with some modest growth possible by the last quarter of the year.
Issues Converged to Batter U.S. Economy in 2008
Several major factors compounded to batter the U.S. economy during 2008 - a historical election year. A substantial decreases in home prices "then had substantial consequences for mortgage markets and mortgage-related securities." That triggered the crisis in the financial sector, helping to deepen the national economic downturn.
Homeowners Burdened By Homebuilder's Money Woes
As hard times fall on a Dallas-based homebuilding company, homeowners are also feeling the weight of the problem.
Settlement Notes Discrimination in Lending
In a settlement agreement with a national mortgage company, the FTC alleged that minority refinancers and home buyers were charged higher fees and rates than white applicants with comparable credit scores and other risk factors.
Low Rates Fueling Rush to Refinance
Recent interest rates for refinancing a mortgage have hovered between 4.75 percent and 5.25 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan if the borrower has good credit and at least 10 percent equity in the property, said Owen Raun of RMC Vanguard Mortgage Corp. in Houston.
U.S. Economy Shrank 0.5% Last Quarter, Most Since ’01
The U.S. economy shrank in the third quarter at a 0.5 percent annual pace as the now year-old recession began to intensify. The contraction in gross domestic product from July through September, which matched the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey, was the worst since 2001, according to revised figures from the Commerce Department today in Washington. Consumer spending fell the most in almost three decades.
Historic Sebastiani Winery Sold
Yet another iconic wine estate has slipped out of the hands of a historic California family. Acquisition-thirsty Foley Wine Group of Los Olivos on Monday said it had bought Sebastiani Vineyards, a Sonoma winery that had passed through generations of family members over the span of 104 years.
LandAmerica Sells Most of Itself
The Richmond area has lost one of its 14 Fortune 1000 companies. LandAmerica Financial Group Inc., ranked 582 on the list and honored by Fortune this year for its innovation and financial health, sold subsidiaries yesterday that accounted for 85 percent to 90 percent its annual revenue. Last year, the company reported $3.7 billion in revenue.
Forecasters Share Predictions for Economy's Outlook in 2009
It may come as a surprise, given all the bad news of late, but the U.S. economy is expected to emerge from the recession sometime around mid-2009. Until that happens, the economy will remain mired in one of the deepest and longest downturns the nation has seen in decades.
U.S. Housing Crisis Worsens as Economy Weakens
The desperate straits of many U.S. homeowners showed in new data released on Monday, suggesting efforts to help them are having limited success.
Alpha-Omega Buys Out Florida Title Insurance
Fewer real estate closings and a continuing credit squeeze has prompted Alpha-Omega Title Insurance Co. to purchase full control of Florida Title Insurance Agency LLC.
Fannie Mae 'Early Workout Modification
Here's some good news for homeowners facing tough financial times: You no longer have to miss two to three months of payments before your mortgage company can modify your unaffordable loan terms.
Foreclosure Web Sites Offer Wide Range of Listings
Foreclosure search Web sites have grown increasingly popular as more would-be homebuyers have begun focusing on finding distressed properties. But discerning which site works best isn't easy: Most boast they've got the most listings and charge users a fee for all but the most basic property details.
Mortgage Brokers’ Association Sues HUD Over RESPA
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) Final Rule, issued Nov. 17 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, disadvantages small businesses, according to a lawsuit filed by the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB).
Mortgage Rates Left in Dust by Treasuries, Failures
Americans seeking mortgages aren’t getting the full benefit of record low yields on Treasuries and government-supported mortgage bonds, blunting U.S. efforts to curb the housing crisis.
Borrowers Rushing to Refinance Loans as Rates Drop
Homeowners around the country are scrambling to refinance their mortgages at the lowest rates since the early 1960s as the economy staggers through what's likely to be the worst recession in decades. Mortgage brokers are already reporting a surge of calls from borrow.
More than 8 million homes face foreclosure in next 4 years
More than 8 million mortgages could go into foreclosure in coming years in the wake of the credit meltdown as the economy worsens and the U.S. suffers more job losses, according to a recent report. Credit Suisse's fixed-income research team forecast that 8.1 million mortgages will be in foreclosure over the next four years, representing 16% of all mortgages. More than 8 million homes face foreclosure in next 4 years More than 8 million mortgages could go into foreclosure in coming years in the wake of the credit meltdown as the economy worsens and the U.S. suffers more job losses, according to a recent report. Credit Suisse's fixed-income research team forecast that 8.1 million mortgages will be in foreclosure over the next four years, representing 16% of all mortgages.
Title Insurer Takes Its Chances in Florida
A depressed real estate marketplace wouldn't seem like the best time to invest $10 million into a title insurance company, especially when thousands of competitors are going out of business.But EntitleDirect entered the Florida marketplace on Oct. 1 - a month after its initial launch in Pennsylvania - with a promise that it will undercut other agents' title insurance rates by 35 percent.
'All Available Tools' to Spur U.S. Economy
For the first time in its history, the U. S. Federal Reserve is effectively giving away money. The central bank took the unprecedented step yesterday of slashing its benchmark interest rate to an extraordinarily low range of zero to a quarter per cent yesterday in an attempt to prevent the world's largest economy from suffering a long and painful recession.
For One Lender, FHA Has Been a Vital Lifeline
Government loans are hot — so hot, in fact, that compared with total volumes through the third quarter of 2007, St. Louis-based Lenders One Mortgage Cooperative said Wednesday that origination levels of FHA/VA loans have more than tripled at the firm through the same period for 2008. The group, a national alliance of mortgage bankers, tracks and compiles origination activity of its more than 125 member companies by product, geography and member.
Treasuries Snap Four-Day Gain After Fed Cuts Rate to Near Zero
Treasury two-year notes fell for the first time in five days, driving yields up from record lows, after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to zero and said it may increase purchases of riskier securities.
Dissolved Title Company Point of Legal Disputes
A Lenoir City judge and a prominent Maryville developer are entangled in a legal dispute that also is linked to a federal tax lien against the judge.The matter is highlighted in a July complaint filed in U.S. District Court by an entity called Assurance Title Co. That company was the plaintiff in the complaint.
Housing Industry Seeks Federal Aid
With housing numbers plunging, industries with a stake in the market are ratcheting up efforts for help in the emerging economic stimulus package.
A Second Mortgage Disaster On The Horizon?
60 Minutes: New wave of mortgage rate adjustments could force more homeowners to default!
How Lehman's Fall Created a Global Panic
The world changed forever on Sept. 15, 2008, the Monday Meltdown, a day that will live in the annals of finance alongside Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929. We are still odds-on to avoid a depression like the one that followed Oct. 29, but the Monday Meltdown made one more likely, and has claimed trillions of dollars of wealth worldwide and triggered a global recession.
U.S. Homes will Lose $2 Trillion in Home Value
American homeowners will collectively lose more than $2 trillion in home value by the end of 2008, a report released Monday said.
Federal Reserve May Cut Interest Rates to 0% Soon
The Federal Reserve is expected to slash a key interest rate to near zero and signal that it will step up its use of other, less conventional methods to bolster the economy, during a historic two-day meeting starting Monday.
McCall Gets Top Post At State Title Group
Alan McCall has been elected president of the Florida Land Title Association. McCall, vice president and southeast regional underwriting counsel for First American Title Insurance Co.’s Winter Park office, is a 34-year veteran of the title insurance industry.
Fannie Mae Allows Renters to Stay
In a move that provides relief to thousands of renters who face eviction but draws the federal government even deeper into the housing market, the loan giant Fannie Mae said Sunday that it would sign new leases with renters living in foreclosed properties owned by the company.
Some Back Off Buying, Waiting for Rates to Fall
Could a 4.5 percent mortgage be your personal piece of the bailout pie? Apparently large numbers of consumers thought precisely that during the week after disclosure that the Treasury Department was working on plans to slash loan rates for consumers who buy houses in the coming months. But in the meantime ....
LandAmerica Subsidiary Facing Suits
Days before LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services Inc. declared bankruptcy, the troubled business was still accepting money from customers. Now that money is tied up and allegations of fraud, misconduct and breach of contract have been leveled against the unit, a division of Henrico County-based holding company LandAmerica Financial Group in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Mortgage-fraud Net Gets Smaller Fish, Too
Investigations into the collapse of financial titans such as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual have attracted most of the attention in the unraveling of the mortgage-backed-securities mess. Lost in the headlines are prosecutions proceeding quietly on the local level against smaller players.
Why Home Values May Take Decades to Recover
As painful as the decline has been, history suggests home values still may have a long way to drop and may take decades to return to the heights of 2½ years ago.
FDIC Chief Sheila Bair Sees Housing Pain Into 2010
The housing crisis will drag on at least until 2010, time needed for credit markets to revive and government rescue programs to make an impact, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Thursday.
Congress Slams US Treasury Over Bailout
The US Congress has published an extremely critical report of the Treasury Department's handling of the $US700 billion ($1.06 trillion) financial industry bailout to stabilise the US economy. The 30-page report by the Congressional Oversight Panel - a commission specially created to monitor the bailout - raises ten areas of concern over the government's execution TARP program
Plan to Help Troubled Homeowners Makes Headway
Bankruptcy judges would be able to reduce payments and principal for homeowners with troubled mortgages under a proposal that appeared to be gaining momentum Wednesday.
Riverside County in Talks to Buy Title Company Property
Riverside County is negotiating to buy the downtown Riverside office of First American Title Insurance Co. for about $6.5 million.
Law Firm to Start Insurance Company
Atlanta real estate law firm Morris Hardwick Schneider has started an insurance company based in Franklin. LandCastle Insurance Services will operate out of the company's existing title insurance office in Franklin, called LandCastle Title.
Riding a Title Wave
The stubborn storm clouds over the real-estate market could be giving way -- thanks to falling mortgage rates.This trend bodes well for shares of companies that sell the title insurance required with any mortgage.
What Fannie and Freddie Knew and When
Some internal Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac documents that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) released Tuesday are up at U.S. News & World Report blog, the Home Front, courtesy of real estate blogger Luke Mullins.
Ex-HUD Secretaries Call for New Housing Oversight Agency
Asserting that a lack of government oversight led to the current housing crisis, two former Housing and Urban Development Secretaries joined civil rights groups today in calling for a new government agency to check predatory lending and housing discrimination. Former HUD secretaries Henry G. Cisneros and Jack F. Kemp Jr. headlined a bipartisan commission that released a report that said housing is still segregated more than 40 years after civil rights laws were passed to remedy the problem.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Bosses Made 'reckless Bets'
The chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the collapsed mortgage finance giants at the centre of the US housing market, repeatedly ignored warnings that they were putting their companies at risk with exotic mortgage investments, a congressional hearing has been told. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac-bosses-made-reckless-bets-1059578.html told.
Some Owners May Intentionally Fall Behind on Mortgage
Are homeowners purposely falling behind on their mortgage payments to qualify for cheaper home loans?Economists, lenders and other housing experts are concerned that programs to bail out troubled homeowners might have an unintended consequence: encouraging people to miss mortgage payments so they can qualify for a handful of programs that ease loan terms.
High Court Hits Subprime Lenders
The Bay State’s highest court has issued a landmark ruling tentatively declaring whole classes of subprime mortgages unfair under Massachusetts law.“Originating loans with terms that in combination would lead predictably to . . . default and foreclosure (is) within established concepts of unfairness,” state Supreme Judicial Court justices unanimously ruled yesterday.
Fannie, Freddie May Waive Appraisals for Refinancings
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance companies seized by the U.S. government, are considering forgoing new appraisals on refinanced loans to help struggling homeowners, their regulator said.
More Fed Officials Seek Fixes Beyond Rate Cuts
With the Federal Reserve's target interest rate quickly approaching zero, central-bank officials are increasingly embracing a broad array of remedies for the U.S. recession.
Foreclosure Epidemic Infecting Rental Market
Tenants, Lenders Are Exposed to Various Scams Of all the things that can go wrong on moving day, few could be worse than arriving at your new home to find another family already living there. Then again, in today's Darwinian housing market, worse things do indeed occur.
Firm Cries Foul on Credit Reporting, Mortgage Loans
Nearly one in two borrowers is plagued by medical collection accounts that are lowering their credit scores and limiting their ability to get a mortgage, said mortgage and credit expert Rodney Anderson, of Rodney Anderson Lending Services, in a press release Monday.
Rising Number of Homeowners in Trouble
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its latest survey, released Friday, showed that 10% of mortgages on one- to four-family homes were at least a month overdue or in the foreclosure process in the third quarter. That is up from 9.2% three months earlier and 7.3% a year ago. The current level is the highest since the trade group began such surveys four decades ago.
Redefaults a Problem, OCC’s Dugan Says
As if you couldn’t see this one coming a mile away: more than half of the loans modified in the first quarter of 2008 had redefaulted within six months of modification, according to statistics released Monday by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
How Freddie Mac Halted Regulatory Drive
From a hefty lobbying budget to the use of free baseball tickets, Freddie Mac fended off any meaningful regulation in the years before the housing mortgage giant crashed, records obtained by The Associated Press show.
In String of Bad News, Omens of a Long Recession
Despite months of rescue efforts, hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending and an avant-garde apparatus of financial tools, the American economy has only worsened, and at a faster rate than nearly anyone predicted.
Regulators Scratch Heads Over Housing Crisis
The top U.S. banking regulators said on Monday that some of their foreclosure prevention efforts are floundering and that they have no agreed plan for the future, two years into a housing crisis that has dragged the economy into a deep recession.
Local Housing Shows 5-year Net Value Growth
The latest federal statistics on housing prices in hundreds of local markets reveal patterns that haven't been making the nightly news: Nationwide, homeowners have lost more than $1 trillion in equity since the end of the boom, but the overwhelming majority of local markets continue to show net cumulative value growth over the past 60 months.
Bernanke Stirs Pot On Home Loan Help
The government needs to move much more aggressively to help people avoid losing their homes to foreclosure, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said yesterday, trying to boost efforts that had stalled in recent weeks.
U.S. Job Losses Worst Since 1974 as Downturn Deepens
U.S. employers axed payrolls by 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years and far more than expected, government data on Friday showed, as the year-old recession hammered every corner of the U.S. economy.
Obama Wants Bailout to Help Homeowners
President-elect Barack Obama signaled a clear desire Wednesday to use a significant portion of $700 billion in financial bailout funds to avert foreclosures by helping struggling homeowners with their mortgages.
Treasury Weighs Action on Mortgage Rates
The Treasury Department is strongly considering a plan to intervene directly in the mortgage industry to dramatically force down rates and stimulate the moribund housing market, according to sources familiar with the proposal.
Paulson Considers New Plan to Resuscitate U.S. Housing Market
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is considering a new plan to reduce mortgage rates in another bid to revive the U.S. housing market, a government official said.
How and Why Mortgage Fraud is Growing
With the number of home loans shrinking because of the subprime meltdown and resulting tight credit, logic says mortgage fraud would be declining. But a report this week by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute, of Reston, Va., showed fraud rose 65 percent in the second quarter over the same period in 2007.
Condos? Rentals? Tight Credit Scrambles Plans
It's been about eight months since Village Green Companies stepped in to take over a prime site in Minneapolis' Mills District where a condominium project had faltered because of weak advance sales.
The Top 10 Regulatory Issues of '09
Experts Say These Are the Banking/Security Topics to Watch in the New Year
Dallas Area At 'moderate' Risk for Widespread Mortgage Defaults
The latest mortgage market measure gives the Dallas area a “moderate” risk of widespread mortgage defaults.
Home Loan Fraud Still Rising
Despite more stringent underwriting of mortgages in the wake of record foreclosures, lenders continued to battle home loan fraud during the second quarter of the year, with Florida borrowers again submitting more questionable loan applications than borrowers in any state in the nation, according to an industry report released Tuesday.
Transunion: 3Q Mortgage Delinquencies Shoot Higher
The percentage of people who are two months behind on their mortgages shot up in the third quarter from the same period last year, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion LLC. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, 3.96 percent of people holding a mortgage were at least 60 days behind in payments, compared with 2.56 percent in the 2007 third quarter.
Investor Sues to Block Mortgage Modifications
The battle over the mass modifications of troubled mortgages has begun in earnest. On Dec. 1, William Frey, a private investor in mortgage-backed securities, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court alleging that the proposed modification of some 400,000 home loans originally underwritten by the defunct lender Countrywide Financial is illegal.
Fitch Reviewing Fidelity National for Downgrade
Credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings on Monday placed ratings for Fidelity National Financial Inc. and its title insurance subsidiaries on a negative watch.Credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings on Monday placed ratings for Fidelity National Financial Inc. and its title insurance subsidiaries on a negative watch.
U.S. Working on New Lending Programs: Paulson
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Monday the government was working on new programs to stimulate lending and expressed impatience that banks were not making more credit available.
US Diluted Loan Rules Before Crash
The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents.
U.S. Rethinks Roles of Fannie, Freddie
America's $11 trillion home-mortgage market is heading for a makeover. The consensus among both Republicans and Democrats is that the current structure of Fannie and Freddie doesn't work.
Ranieri: Take a Million Houses Off Market
The federal government and private partners should work together to remove one million homes from the housing market as a way to turn the U.S. economy around, Franklin Bank Corp. of Houston chairman Lewis Ranieri said in a speech last week at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Ratings Agencies Accused in Civil Rights Action
In what is apparently the first legal action of its kind, an association of community-based organizations has filed a federal civil rights complaint against two of the three largest Wall Street ratings agencies, charging that their inflated ratings on subprime mortgage bonds disproportionately caused financial harm to African American and Latino home buyers across the country.
Fannie, Freddie May Waive Appraisals for Refinancings
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance companies seized by the U.S. government, are considering forgoing new appraisals on refinanced loans to help struggling homeowners, their regulator said.
Bailout Cost Builds, Could Hit $7 Trillion
Rolling out powerful weapons against the financial meltdown, the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve pledged $800 billion Tuesday to blast through blockades on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other borrowing. Total bailout commitments, loans and pledges of backing neared a staggering $7 trillion.
Fed Engineers U.S. Mortgage Rate Cut
The Federal Reserve's $600 billion boost for the U.S. mortgage bond market, announced on Tuesday, may finally bring down the high home loan rates that have defied other efforts to stem the housing slump.
Government Share of Mortgage Apps Soars: Report
The latest proof of the government’s growing influence in the mortgage banking sector came Tuesday morning from the Mortgage Bankers Association, which said that of all mortgage applications taken during the month of October, 32.9 percent were for government-insured loans — primarily borrowers looking to apply for an FHA-eligible loan, although VA loans are included in the total as well — compared to 10.3 percent one year ago.
LandAmerica Signs Stock Purchase Agreement for Underwriters
LandAmerica Financial Group, Inc. (LFG: landamerica finl group inc com News, chart, profile, more Last: 0.20-0.71-78.02% 9:30am 11/26/2008 Delayed quote data Add to portfolio Analyst Create alert Insider Discuss Financials Sponsored by: LFG 0.20, -0.71, -78.0%) announces the signing of a definitive Stock Purchase Agreement for the sale of the Company's two principal title underwriting subsidiaries, Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation ("Lawyers Title") and Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company ("Commonwealth"), as well as United Capital Title Insurance Company ("United") to Fidelity National Title Insurance Company ("Fidelity") and Chicago Title Insurance Company ("Chicago").
Fed Commits $800 Billion More to Unfreeze Lending
The Federal Reserve took two new steps to unfreeze credit for homebuyers, consumers and small businesses, committing up to $800 billion.
US home prices plunge record 17.4 pct in September-S&P
Prices of U.S. single-family homes in September plunged a record 17.4 percent from a year earlier, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices issued on Tuesday.
Fed To Buy Up To $600 Billion In Mortgage Assets
The Federal Reserve announced Tuesday yet another massive deal to buy $600 billion worth of mortgage-backed assets and $200 billion in consumer debt securities as the government struggles to stabilize the economy amid an unprecedented financial crisis.
Freddie Mac Increases Home Loan Support
The company said yesterday that it bought $27 billion in mortgage-backed securities in October, growing its portfolio at an annual rate of 44 percent. The company's portfolio now stands at $764 billion.
Foreclosures, Delinquencies Skyrocketing Among 'Prime' Borrowers
In California, with a jobless rate topping 8% and home prices down more than 40% from their peak and falling, the situation is significantly worse, with 4.15% of prime loans seriously delinquent. That far exceeded peaks of about 2.6% reached in the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s.
The Rise and Fall of Citigroup
How the mighty are fallen. Citigroup, a bank which has been at the heart of America's finances for much of its history, has been brought to its knees. Two years ago Citigroup was worth $273bn (£181bn) - now it is worth just $20bn because of the financial crisis is.
Fidelity National Financial Terminates Merger Agreement with LandAmerica
Fidelity National Financial Inc. said late on Friday that it ended its definitive agreement to acquire LandAmerica Financial Group Inc.
Bernanke Tells New Yorker He Underestimated Housing Meltdown
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he underestimated the impact subprime mortgages would have on the economy, according to an interview to appear in the New Yorker magazine’s Dec. 1 edition.
What’s Next For Mortgages? Try More Regulation
As U.S. financial organizations plot their course for 2009, many are waiting to see how the federal government will handle the current financial crisis under a new Presidential administration. And while there are plenty of unknowns, early leaks from the White House suggest that the Obama administration will not be taking a hands-off approach to managing the economy.
First American Exec Named President of Florida Land Title Association
First American Title Insurance Company yesterday announced that Alan K. McCall has been elected president of the Florida Land Title Association (FLTA) for the 2008/2009 term. A 34-year veteran of the title insurance industry, McCall currently serves as VP and southeast regional underwriting counsel for First American. He is based in the company’s office in Winter Park, Florida.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Suspend Some Foreclosures
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two biggest U.S. home loan finance companies, on Thursday said they would suspend foreclosures of occupied homes until early 2009, as the government moves to stem the tide of home losses plaguing the economy.
Some Parts of U.S. Escape Housing Mess
In 17 locations around the USA, many made up of small cities surrounded by large rural areas, 50% or more of the people who own the roof over their heads don't have to worry about adjustable rates, balloon mortgages or owing more than their houses are worth, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Census data. In 123 areas, 40% or more don't have a mortgage.
Navigating Foreclosures: Great Deals at Bargain Prices
A foreclosed home is a property whose owners can no longer sustain payments of their mortgage to the lending bank. When those owners go into default, the bank repossesses the house, transferring the deed to the bank's name and leaving the homeowners homeless. But...
U.S. Economy: Jobless Claims Near Highest Since 1982
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits approached a 26-year high, and a gauge of the economy's future performance dropped, sending yields on benchmark Treasuries to record lows.
Short Sales Drive Transactions
As foreclosures rates continue to climb in Florida and throughout the country, buyers increasingly look to non-traditional purchase methods. One of those that continue to draw interest is the “short sale” — an agreement by a lender to accept less than it is owed when a property is sold.
Originations Could Fall Below $1.3 Trillion
Everyone on the origination side of the fence these days wants to know just what kind of market they’re going to face next year. The answer isn’t one many likely want to hear, if one forecasting firm is correct: originations could fall to levels not seen since the 1990s in 2009, according to a forecast released Wednesday by Des Moines, Iowa-based iEmergent.
U.S. Tries New Tack on Housing
The Bush administration said Wednesday that it was changing its nearly-moribund mortgage rescue plan in an effort to spark more lenders and homeowners to participate.
FHA-Backed Loans: The New Subprime
As if they haven't done enough damage. Thousands of subprime mortgage lenders and brokers—many of them the very sorts of firms that helped create the current financial crisis—are going strong. Their new strategy: taking advantage of a long-standing federal program designed to encourage homeownership by insuring mortgages for buyers of modest means.
Russia Cuts Investment in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Bonds By 68%
MOSCOW, Russia's Central Bank has cut its investment in bonds with U.S. mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $65.6 billion to $20.9 billion as of November 1, the bank's chairman said on Wednesday.
Fannie in Danger Of Stock Delisting
Fannie Mae, once the largest public company in the Washington area and a bedrock of the U.S. financial industry, disclosed yesterday it is at risk of being dropped from the New York Stock Exchange.The announcement came after the mortgage finance company's share price fell below $1, a violation of exchange rules.
Treasury takes stakes in 21 more banks
Investments totaling $33.5 billion are added to the rescue program in an effort to shore up lending.
Lawmakers, Treasury Lock Horns on Foreclosures
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and members of Congress clashed on Tuesday over the best use for the $700-billion financial bailout fund, with lawmakers demanding money to stem a national wave of mortgage foreclosures.
Title Insurance at Work
In a couple of previous posts I introduced an interesting problem with a new condo development. The developer stopped paying the contractor on a 90 plus unit development about the time the units were occupied by the new owners.
Freddie Mac Could Lose $20-$40 Billion
Freddie Mac could post losses totaling $20 billion to $40 billion in 2009, hurt by higher credit costs and write-downs in mortgage assets, an analyst at Friedman Billings Ramsey said. Reuters) - Freddie Maccould post losses totaling $20 billion to $40 billion in 2009, hurt by higher credit costs and write-downs in mortgage assets, an analyst at Friedman Billings Ramsey said.
Mandatory Mortgage Modifications and the U.S. Constitution
The Bush administration’s failure to articulate or enact a comprehensive solution to the enormous debt overhang homeowners face is rooted not only in free-market ideology, but also in fundamental constitutional law and case history dating back to the Great Depression.
FDIC Unveils Govt Plan to Help Delinquent Homeowners
In a surprise move, FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair has unveiled details of her plan to have the government help delinquent homeowners.There are two key elements to the proposal. First, housing payments for delinquent borrowers two months or more late would be reduced to 31% of gross monthly income.
Federal Government Bails Out on Help for Struggling Homeowners
Turns out all that talk about federal help for the residential real estate market is just that. Talk. Empty words.
Citigroup Chief Pandit to Reduce Headcount by 50,000
Citigroup Inc., the U.S. bank with the most employees, plans to eliminate more than 50,000 jobs and cut expenses by 20 percent from their peak as the global economy contracts.
Housing Industry Seeks U.S. Mortgage Subsidies
What will it take to get consumers off the sidelines to buy more houses and help stimulate the economy? How about a mortgage at 2.99 percent fixed rate for 30 years for anyone who purchases a home before July 1? Or how about a nonrepayable federal tax credit of 10 percent of the home price up to $22,000?
Freddie Mac Seeks Government Aid After $25.3B Loss
Freddie Mac has asked the federal government for the first $14 billion due under a federal bailout program after reporting massive losses today, as concern mounted that government efforts to stabilize the mortgage giant and its sister company Fannie Mae are likely to grow far more expensive than originally suggested.
The Rising Cost of Bailing Out the U.S. Economy
Following the leads of Wall Street and the auto industry, several companies and even cities have come to the federal government with their hands out, asking for financial assistance that could cost taxpayers up to $150 billion.
U.S. Economy: Jobless Rolls Climb to 25-Year High
The global economic slowdown is deepening, according to reports today that showed the number of Americans collecting jobless benefits jumped to a 25-year high and U.S. exports plunged.
Title Companies Are Cutting Staff and Hunkering Down
Title companies, however, must sit and wait, laying off staff and tightening budgets until the market improves.When the real estate market slows down, Realtors work harder to win new clients, market what's available and convince sellers to lower prices.
Paulson Changes Bailout Plan
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the department's Troubled Asset Relief Program would begin to focus more on relieving tight consumer credit markets and shift away from the original plans to buy mortgage-backed securities.
To Help Consumers, Lenders Must Make More Disclosures
The Department of Housing and Urban Development yesterday announced reforms to help consumers find low-cost home loans and avoid excessive fees.In updating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, HUD will require lenders and mortgage brokers to provide consumers with a good-faith estimate that discloses key loan terms and closing costs.
Foreclosure Relief Is Getting Lost In Fine Print of Loans
More than a year into the foreclosure crisis, whether a distressed homeowner is eligible for a more affordable mortgage can often come down to the fine print.
Bailout's Next Phase: Consumers
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson officially abandoned his original plan to buy troubled assets from financial institutions. While the government will continue to invest in those firms, he said, it would also now focus on the nation's struggling consumers.
Federal Bailout: Where Will Rest of $700 Billion in Funding Go?
With the economy falling into what could be the deepest recession in decades, the government is struggling to find a coherent way to quickly help homeowners and businesses - and the clash of politics and economics is hitting a fever pitch.
Improved Disclosures to Help Borrowers Understand What They're Getting Into
New mortgage rules issued Wednesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development will help consumers more easily shop for the lowest-cost mortgage and avoid expensive loan offers.
Fidelity National Acquiring LandAmerica
Title insurer Fidelity National Financial Inc. said Friday it has agreed to acquire rival LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. for stock valued at about $128.4 million.
Government Unveils Mortgage Disclosure Rules
Prospective home buyers would get a simpler way to understand often-confusing mortgage terms under new rules issued Wednesday by the federal government.
New Mortgage Rules Aimed at Consumers
The Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to announce Wednesday morning its final version of new RESPA rules designed to help Americans shop for mortgages more effectively.
Maximum FHA loan size falls to $625,500 next year
The government is lowering the maximum size of home loans that can be backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which have surged in popularity over the past year as the subprime lending market collapsed.
Can Anyone Halt The Mortgage Meltdown?
Fifteen months into the worst credit crisis in decades, major banks and the federal government are coming together on a solution for struggling mortgage borrowers.
Citigroup Offers Relief To Homeowners
Citigroup is the latest big bank to try and help its most-reliable borrowers--this time by preventing the next round of foreclosures before they start.
A Plan to Rebuild The Housing Market
The US Congress and the Bush administration are considering ways to prevent mortgage defaults. Attractive for humanitarian reasons, it is a second or third best option to reduce or eliminate the housing problem.
Citi to Modify $20 Billion in Home Loans
Citigroup says it will expand its foreclosure prevention efforts and try to keep 130,000 troubled borrowers with $20 billion in mortgages in their homes.
Hawaii Title Companies Feel The Pain of Real Estate Slump
Hawaii’s largest title and escrow company recently laid off several dozen employees, while other firms have closed branches, trimmed staffs and instituted pay cuts over the past six months because of the downturn in real estate and tightening in the credit market.
Fannie Mae Reports Record Loss After Asset Writedowns
Fannie Mae posted a record quarterly loss as new Chief Executive Officer Herbert Allison slashed the value of the mortgage-finance provider's assets by at least $21.4 billion and said it may need to tap federal funds next year.
FHA Issues New Guidelines to Curb the Practice of ‘Buy and Bail’
Over the past several months, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and others in the mortgage industry have observed an increase in the number of homeowners who have chosen to vacate their existing principal residences, purport to rent them out, and purchase a new residence. This increase has been attributed by FHA to rising fuel prices resulting in homeowners relocating to houses nearer their employment or taking advantage of more affordable home buying opportunities arising in the marketplace.
Private Sector Loans, Not Fannie Or Freddie, Triggered Crisis
As the economy worsens and Election Day approaches, a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail.
Lenders Push Appraisers for Fresher Comps
How fresh are your "comps" - the comparable sales of properties used as benchmarks in home real estate appraisals? Buyers and sellers rarely had to be concerned about such a question - or even understand it - when values were on the upswing. But in soft and declining markets, lenders recently have begun making comps a big deal.
Fidelity National Acquiring LandAmerica
Title insurer Fidelity National Financial Inc. said Friday it has agreed to acquire rival LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. for stock valued at about $128.4 million.
Obama Housing Plan Likely Won’t Be Enough
President-elect Barack Obama is inheriting the worst housing recession in a generation, and the proposals he outlined on the campaign trail won't fix it, so there will be many tough decisions ahead.
S&P Removes Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac off CreditWatch
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has raised its subordinated debt rating on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to 'A' from 'BBB+' and removed the rating from CreditWatch Positive where it was placed Sept. 7, 2008.
Resource Title Bolsters Commercial Services [PDF]
Cleveland title company to expand resources and target market under leadership of Richard J. Rennell, Jr.
Your $3 Trillion Bailout
Congratulations Mr. President-elect. Now get to work. It's a little more than 10 weeks until Jan. 20, and there's an economy in dire need of fixing.
US Treasury Considering More Financial Aid Programs
The U.S. Treasury said Wednesday it is considering additional programs to strengthen financial institutions under its $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Second Mortgages Sting MBIA
The housing crisis is not over for bond insurer MBIA. The company is still losing money on dodgy mortgage-backed securities that it insured at the height of the U.S. housing bubble.
Ohio to Liquidate 109-Year-Old Title Insurer
Ohio Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson has taken possession of the Guarantee Title and Trust Co., a 109-year-old Ohio-domiciled insurer, under court order and will proceed to liquidate the company. The company has been in rehabilitation since July, when it revealed a negative surplus of at least $5.5 million. Ohio has no guaranty fund coverage for title insurance.
Fed Says Banks Tighten Loan Standards Most on Record
A record share of U.S. banks made it harder for companies to get loans in the past three months, concerned about mounting losses from the economic slump and financial crisis, a Federal Reserve report showed today.
Decline in Factory Index Accelerates
Manufacturing in the United States contracted in October at the fastest pace in 26 years as more banks tightened credit and faltering economies abroad eroded prospects for American exports.
LandAmerica Lays Off 120 Workers
LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. laid off 120 people this morning, most of whom work at the corporate headquarters in western Henrico County.
Commercial Real Estate Market to Hit Bottom Next Year, New Report Says
Real estate industry experts expect financial and real estate markets in the United States to hit bottom in 2009 and then flounder for much of 2010, with ongoing drops in property values, more foreclosures and delinquencies, and a limping economy that will continue to crimp property cash flows, according to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2009 report, released recently by Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit education and research institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
The Next Bailout: Helping Homeowners in Distress
The first plan, backed by FDIC would create an incentive for banks to change the terms of troubled mortgages by guaranteeing mortgages for millions of Americans who are struggling with their house payments but are otherwise creditworthy. The plan would use up to $50 billion.
FTC Cracking Down on Credit Repair Services
With foreclosures, short sales and credit card defaults at record levels, an aggressive breed of firms has sprung up offering to power-wash consumers' damaged credit files and boost credit scores - thereby eliminating records of bankruptcies and mortgage delinquencies, even when the information is accurate.
More from the Front Lines of the Financial Crisis
In its latest economic outlook, Merrill Lynch economists "worry about inflation, or more precisely," a lack of it. From crashing global equity markets, falling commodity prices, rising unemployment, stagnant wages, over-indebted households, declining production, the continuing housing crisis, and more.
The Next Bailout: Helping Homeowners in Distress
The first plan, backed by FDIC would create an incentive for banks to change the terms of troubled mortgages by guaranteeing mortgages for millions of Americans who are struggling with their house payments but are otherwise creditworthy. The plan would use up to $50 billion
One in Five Us Homeowners with Mortgages Underwater
Nearly one in five U.S. mortgage borrowers owe more to lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate may soon approach one in four as housing prices fall and the economy weakens, a report on Friday shows.
U.S. Economy Shrinks On Lower Spending
The credit crunch has finally shown up on the U.S. economy's bottom line--a drop-off in consumer spending led to a contraction in gross-domestic product for the third quarter.
U.S. Consumer Spending Declined 0.3% in September
Spending by U.S. consumers dropped more than forecast in September, capping the weakest quarter in three decades and indicating the economic slump is deepening. The 0.3 percent decrease in purchases was the biggest in four years.
Mortgage Insurers See Defaults Rise In September
Insured mortgage defaults rose in September, according to a report by Mortgage Insurance Companies of America or MICA, an association of the largest mortgage insurers. In September, 76776 insured mortgages went into default, or became 60 days past due, up from 72,818 the month before, and the highest monthly total in a year.
Credit Crunch Squeezes Housing Finance Agencies
The financial meltdown has come down hard on the nation's housing finance agencies, which provide tens of thousands of mortgages to first-time poor and moderate-income home buyers.
Crisis: Don't Blame it on Subprime Loans
There is a pat explanation that’s been put forward to explain the subprime crisis. The US Fed and other central banks flooded the world with liquidity and created an era of low interest rates. Greedy bankers sought to take advantage of low interest rates by selling housing loans to greedy consumers who could not afford these (subprime loans).
S.F. Fed Chief Wants More Done on Housing
With no signs of immediate recovery for the economy, it is time to do more to strengthen the beleaguered housing market at the heart of the crisis, according to speakers Thursday at a conference called "The Mortgage Meltdown, Financial Markets and the Economy," jointly sponsored by UC Berkeley and UCLA.
Economy Shrank in Third Quarter as Consumers Retreat
The U.S. economy shrank at a 0.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, its sharpest contraction in seven years as consumers cut spending and businesses reduced investment in the face of rising fears that recession was setting in.
Ex-Fannie Mae Boss Mudd Has Regrets
Former Fannie Mae chief executive Daniel Mudd says he wished he said 'no' to more of the things Fannie was asked to do, but did not apologise for any role he may have had in the collapse of the mortgage finance giant.
Treasury, FDIC Near Deal on Mortgage Aid
Negotiators for the Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are nearing agreement on a plan to have the government guarantee the mortgages of millions of distressed homeowners in what would be a significant departure for the federal rescue program, which has so far directed relief exclusively to banks and other financial institutions.
Fannie Mae to Reduce Value of Deferred Tax Assets
Fannie Mae will write down about $20 billion of assets after being seized by the government last month, eroding its capital and increasing the likelihood the U.S. Treasury may need to inject cash into the mortgage giant.
FDIC Unveils Incentives to Mortgage Industry to Amend Loans
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair announced that the agency has created a program to offer economic incentives to the mortgage industry to amend loans and aid borrowers avoid foreclosures.
Fed Cuts Interest Rate By 0.5 Point to 1.0 Percent
The Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the second time in three weeks, slashing its federal funds target by 0.5 percentage point to 1.0 percent.
Loan Giants' Takeover Hasn't Paid Off
Almost two months ago, the government sought to revive the nation's ailing mortgage sector by seizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and pumping money into the home-loan market. But so far, the measures have yet to achieve their intended effect.
Fannie Mae to Reduce Value of Deferred Tax Assets
Fannie Mae will write down about $20 billion of assets after being seized by the government last month, eroding its capital and increasing the likelihood the U.S. Treasury may need to inject cash into the mortgage giant.
Stewart Information Services 3Q Loss Widens
Shares of Stewart Information Services Corp tumbled Wednesday after the provider of title insurance and real estate information reported its third-quarter loss more than doubled year-over-year.Stewart Information Services shares fell $2.08, or nearly 16 percent, to $11.12 in morning trading, earlier hitting a nine-year low of $11.01. Losses for the quarter ended Sept. 30 swelled to $30 million, or $1.66 per share, from $14.3 million, or 79 cents per share, during the same quarter last year.
Home Prices See Another Record Plunge
Home prices fell in August for the 25th consecutive month and prices in 10 major markets plunged a record 17.7% year over year, according to a key index of real estate values released Tuesday. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price 10-city index dropped 1.1% for the month.
Frank Now Calls Homeownership Emphasis 'a Mistake'
Barney Frank said Monday that fewer prospective homebuyers will qualify for mortgages as a result of the financial meltdown, calling that trend a positive byproduct because "tens of millions" of people are not suited to own homes.
Consumer Confidence Plummets to All-Time Low of 38.0 in October
The Conference Board's U.S. consumer confidence index plunged far beyond expectations to hit an all-time low of 38.0 in October. The previous all-time low was 47.3, reached in February 1992. More recently, a 16-year low of 51.0 was reached last June.
Economic Downturn Presents Challenges for Title, Mortgage Industry
Reserving for mortgage insurance and title insurance in an economic downturn and amid a stressed real estate market can present challenges for insurers and actuaries, attendees at the Casualty Loss Reserve Seminar were told.
Europe's Financial Crisis is Spreading Eastward
Eastern European economies that only a month ago seemed fundamentally sound are now foundering, not because of toxic mortgage loans as in the United States, but rather because of the credit crisis' impact on capital markets. Governments in the region borrowed and spent heavily to improve institutions and infrastructure ahead of European Union membership.
Which Candidate’s Plan Would Best Ease The Mortgage Crisis?
Both candidates have ambitious plans for helping struggling homeowners.. But the candidates differ over how to get lenders to modify loans and over who should ultimately foot the bill for the losses.
Commercial-real-estate Bust is Coming, Report Warns
Economists and market experts say a doom-and-gloom report on commercial real estate released last week confirms the industry's worst fears about an imminent major correction. The widely respected annual report, "Emerging Trends in Real Estate," by the Urban Land Institute of Washington and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP of New York, predicts that in 2009, commercial real estate will suffer its worst year since the industry's crash of 1991-92, with a noticeable rebound unlikely until 2011 at the earliest.
Mortgage Lending Seized Up in '07
Mortgage lending in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky slowed by 20 percent in 2007 - a drop that foreshadowed the full-blown banking crisis that's still intensifying this year.
Title Insurers Tumble on Housing Woes
The shares of major U.S. title insurers tumbled on signs the nation's housing crisis will lead both to higher claims and to reduced demand for insurance that homeowners need to protect themselves and their lenders.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Eye Mortgage Bail-out Business
American mortgage finance houses Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have each thrown their hat into the ring to be considered to manage the mortgages the US Treasury will own as part of its $850bn bail-out of the American banking system.
Title Insurer Fidelity Cuts Jobs, Pay, Dividend
Fidelity National Financial Inc which controls one of the largest U.S. title insurers, on Wednesday posted a surprise third-quarter loss and cut its dividend in half, as the nation's housing slump drove down home sales and refinancings.
Foreclosure Filings Rose 71% in Third Quarter as Prices Fell
U.S. foreclosure filings increased 71 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier to the highest on record as home prices fell and stricter mortgage standards made it harder for homeowners to sell or refinance, RealtyTrac said. A total of 765,558 U.S. properties got a default notice, were warned of a pending auction or were foreclosed on in the quarter, the most since records began in January 2005.
U.S. Mulls $40 Bln Plan to Help Forestall Foreclosures: Report
The Bush administration is weighing a roughly $40 billion proposal to help forestall housing foreclosures, one of a series of ideas under consideration to address the root causes of the financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported.
U.S. New-Home Sales to Drop 12% in '09, MBA Forecasts
U.S. new-home sales will fall 12 percent next year as single-family housing starts drop by a record in a recession that could last through the first half of 2009, Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann said.
Waxman Blasts Credit Rating Agencies
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman on Wednesday accused credit rating agencies of “colossal failure” in their assessments of the quality of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, two of the investment vehicles that contributed to the financial meltdown.
California Home Sales Revive, But Not Without Intense Pain
In this California city, one of the hardest hit in the national housing crash, there's good news: Homes are starting to sell again.
Wachovia loses $24B in 3Q
In likely its last earnings report as an independent company, Wachovia Corp. today said it lost $23.89 billion, or $11.18 per share, in the third quarter as it took an $18.8 billion writedown to reflect the company's lower market valuation and the terms of its sale to Wells Fargo & Co.
Congress Looks At Re-regulation of Banks
The U.S. financial system certainly faces increased regulation and government supervision, but what form that enhanced oversight will take is not clear.
NAIC May Create A Rating Agency
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is looking into the possibility of developing a new rating agency.
Fannie, Freddie Getting Back to Basics as Aid Flows
With plans to drop some executive perks and trim the costs of home buying, Fannie Maeand Freddie Mac are quickly being transformed from profit-making companies into government-run entities with a single-minded mission to restore the ailing U.S. housing market.
Shell-shocked Mortgage Bankers Gather in S.F.
Mortgage bankers, the folks on the front line of making home loans, don't have much to celebrate these days. They're blamed for lax lending standards that led to the foreclosure crisis, their businesses are frozen in sync with the credit market, and their futures are uncertain.
Government Action Will Stabilize Banking, S&P Says
Government actions around the world should stabilize the banking industry and unfreeze debt markets, Standard & Poor's said Monday.However, the rating agency stressed that the moves will help steady the industry's day-to-day operating environment, and won't, by themselves, improve bank earnings and asset quality.
HUD Secretary: Bailout Effects Too Soon to Tell
The events of recent weeks have made it harder to predict what will happen to the nation's housing markets in coming months, according to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
China to Create Market for Land Rights In Effort to Boost Farmers' Prosperity
China's government said it would liberalize the exchange of land among the nation's farmers, in an effort to revitalize the rural economy at a time of increasing strains in food supply and slowing growth.
Getting mortgage easier than some other credit
Credit squeeze, credit freeze, credit system seizures: Everybody knows how severe and painful the global financial breakdown has been - with banks unwilling to lend even to other banks. But what about mortgages and real estate? Can you still get a home loan with less than a 20 or 30 percent down payment? Or with a credit score below 720?
Mortgage Fraud: New and Improved
Lenders have tightened standards, but scam artists have found new ways to beat the system.
When Fannie And Freddie Opened The Floodgates
Misdiagnosing the causes of the crisis could lead both to regulatory overkill and to more reckless risk taking.
Consumers' Mood Suffers Record Drop in October: Survey
Consumer confidence suffered its steepest monthly drop on record in October, a survey showed on Friday, as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression sent shocks waves through the economy.
Bush Says Economy's Credit Freeze Will `Take a While' to Thaw
President George W. Bush said the government's ``extraordinary response'' to the credit crisis eventually will revive the U.S. economy. ``It took a while for the credit system to freeze up; it's going to take a while for the credit system to thaw,'' Bush said in a speech in Washington to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's biggest business federation representing more than 3 million enterprises.
Economists Expect Further Declines in U.S. Housing Starts
Economists say the rapid deterioration in U.S. housing starts in September means more bad news for the economy, especially as the survey didn't fully capture the impact from the financial turmoil late in the month, which suggests there will be further declines in the next report.
September Housing Starts Lowest Since 1991; Permits Worse
Construction of new homes fell to a 17-1/2 year low in September and the worsening housing slump and growing turmoil in financial markets helped pushed permits for new homes to a nearly 27-year low.
You Can Still Get a Mortgage
Credit squeeze, credit freeze, credit system seizures: Everybody knows how severe and painful the global financial breakdown has been—with banks unwilling to lend even to other banks. But what about mortgages and real estate? Can you still get a home loan with less than a 20 percent or 30 percent down payment? Or with a credit score below 720?
Home Prices Seem Far From Bottom
The American housing market, where the global economic crisis began, is far from hitting bottom.
Government Programs Fail to Stem Foreclosures
Ambitious efforts aimed at helping thousands of homeowners avoid foreclosure over the last year by the federal and state governments have resulted in little or no effect on local homeowners, brokers said Wednesday.
Bernanke Foreshadows End to Fed's Hands-Off Approach to Bubbles
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled an end to the Fed's decades-old aversion to interfering with asset-price bubbles as the financial crisis reshapes some of the central bank's most firmly held views on regulation and monetary policy.
Bernanke Says U.S. Economy Won't Rebound `Right Away'
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said government efforts to calm financial markets and stem the credit crisis probably won't result in an immediate economic rebound.
UNC-CH Study Dissects Mortgage Mess
Risky mortgage products -- not just borrowers with weak credit -- share the blame for the nation's housing meltdown, according to researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill.
U.S. Business Owners' Pessimism At All-time High
Energy prices, recession and credit availability are among the biggest concerns for U.S. business owners, whose pessimism is at an all-time high in the history of the PNC Economic Outlook survey.
Anatomy of a Meltdown
A mix of poor mortgage practices, a housing price bubble, highly levered investment banks, de-regulation and some lax monetary policy turned lethal after a period of prosperity, and helped create the financial meltdown that has poisoned the world economy.
Legislation Drives Huge Drop in California Mortgage Defaults
Recent legislation in California helped push notice of default filings, which indicate the start of the foreclosure process, down 61.8 percent in September, according to a recent report released earlier this week. ForeclosureRadar, which published monthly foreclosure data, found that only 16,352 notices of default were filed in September, down from 42,790 in August, and a decrease of 36.4 percent from a year earlier.
Bush: Will Put Capital Into Banks Via Equity Stakes
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday the U.S. government will directly inject capital into financial institutions by buying equity stakes in a bid to help thaw credit markets frozen by the housing market collapse.
Mortgage Lenders Slam Trust-fund Plan
A plan to create an estimated $40 million trust fund to help New Jersey residents who have subprime mortgages avoid losing their homes is instead creating a growing controversy.
New Law Linked to 62% Drop in California Mortgage Defaults
A new state law requiring lenders to contact homeowners prior to foreclosure filings has led to a dramatic drop in foreclosure activity in California in September, according to the website ForeclosureRadar. The impact of the state law is so dramatic, the website says, that it will make monthly foreclosure statistics worthless as barometers of housing market conditions.
Treasury Said to Invest $250 Billion in U.S. Banks
The U.S. will invest about $125 billion in nine of the nation's biggest financial institutions, including Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., as part of a $250 billion effort to shore up the banking system.
A Paperless World Cuts Both Ways for Real Property Practitioners
An ardent advocate for real property law during his three-decade long legal career, Alan Silverstein has more recently become an enthusiastic proponent of technology and its benefits for lawyers.
FASB Amends Fair Value Measurements
The Financial Accounting Standards Board has provided new flexibility to allow banks and other financial institutions to re-price their assets during the credit crisis by amending its standard on fair value measurements. The FASB Staff Position clarifies the application of FASB Statement No. 157 in an inactive market and provides an illustrative example to demonstrate how the fair value of a financial asset is determined when the market for that financial asset is inactive.
Mortgage Crisis Has Turned Homeownership Upside Down
Joey Goldner always approached real estate with a gardener's zeal. He'd plant his money in a building, patiently care for it and watch its worth grow. For 30 years, it was a brilliant avocation—right up until the heavy thud of the housing market helped flip Goldner's mortgage upside down.
How Congress Set The Stage for a Fiscal Meltdown
No single government decision sparked the crisis, but collectively the candidates had a point: Both parties in Congress played important roles in setting the stage for the ongoing financial meltdown.
Fannie, Freddie to Buy a Lot More Mortgages - Report
Federal regulators have ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to start buying $40 billion of troubled mortgage bonds each month as the U.S. government tries to revive the economy, according to a published report
Regulators To Examine Securities Lending
New York regulators will be looking at insurers’ securities lending programs, according to David Neustadt, a spokesman for the New York State Insurance Department.
Firms at the Center of the Real Estate Bust
Real estate transactions, the lifeblood of the title insurance industry, have come to a screeching halt, slashing revenue and underwriting income. Unlike other lines of insurance, title insurers collect a one-time fee at the closing of a sale or refinance, and that fee is reported in its entirety as revenue on a quarterly basis. Most other forms of insurance distinguish between written and earned premium, which serves to smooth out the earnings stream as revenue and policy obligations are matched. But title insurers--already tied to the cyclicality of the real estate market--have even larger swings in revenue and income, wreaking havoc for shareholders.
Candidates Step Up Battle Over Mortgage Crisis, Ailing Economy
The two presidential campaigns yesterday intensifed their battle over McCain's plan to spend $300 billion to directly buy distressed mortgages and then refinance them on terms friendlier to homeowners - a fight that has become the latest focus in a broader contest over who can better fix the faltering economy.
Wells Fargo's $12 Billion Bid Beats Citi to Wachovia
Wells Fargo & Co. will become the largest U.S. bank by branches with an $11.7 billion offer for ailing rival Wachovia Corp. that trumped a competing bid by Citigroup Inc..
Sheriff in Chicago Halts Foreclosure Evictions
The sheriff of the third-most populous U.S. county halted evictions on foreclosed properties on Thursday, saying innocent tenants were being put on the street. But bankers said he was breaking the law.
SEC Begins Mark-to-Market Study
The Securities and Exchange Commission said it has started work on a study of mark-to-market accounting authorized by the financial rescue bill that was approved last week.
Treasury Says Has Power to Inject Bank Capital
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Wednesday a recently approved financial bailout bill gives him wide authority to inject capital into the banking system and would not rule out having Treasury take an ownership position in banks if necessary.
World's Banks Join Up to Slash Interest Rates
Government banking authorities in North America and Europe fired another weapon Wednesday in their fight to contain a historic financial crisis that now spans the globe, pushing through coordinated moves to slash interest rates.
Credit Crisis Will Influence SEC Reporting System
Participants in a Securities and Exchange Commission roundtable discussed how the credit crisis would affect the SEC's plans for an improved financial disclosure system.
Economists Say Soaring Pending Home Sales Don't Point to Bottom Just Yet
Economists say the surprise gain in U.S. pending home sales in August doesn't mean the worst times in the housing market are over, but the advance in sales is at least a step in the right direction.
Crisis To Lead To Tougher Oversight
The head of the American Bar Association insurance modernization task force says Congress will insist on “more uniform, more national regulation” in 2009 in the wake of the failure of American International Group Inc.
Fed, ECB, Central Banks Cut Rates in Coordinated Move
The Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and four other central banks lowered interest rates in an unprecedented coordinated effort to ease the economic effects of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Fed Creates New Facility to Purchase Unsecured Commercial Paper
Using its extraordinary powers during times of turmoil, the Fed announced the creation of the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF), allowing the central bank to purchase three-month unsecured commercial paper.
McCain Mortgage Plan Would Bail Out Homeowners
Seeking to turn around his faltering campaign, John McCain unveiled a dramatic proposal Tuesday to bail out homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.
Frank: Unregulated Lenders to Blame for Economic Mess
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, of Massachusetts, a key architect of the nation’s $700-billion bailout package, told students at Brown University yesteday that the nation’s housing crisis and banking industry woes are the fault of thousands of loans made by unregulated entities.
BofA in $8.6 Billion Settlement Over Countrywide Loans
As part of a settlement with state attorneys general that could be worth as much as $8.6 billion, Bank of America Corp said on Monday it would cut interest rates and principal on some troubled mortgages originated by Countrywide Financial Corp.
Judge Throws Out Part of Case Against Kissel Widow
A lawyer for the widow of slain Greenwich real-estate developer Andrew Kissel says a Superior Court judge has thrown out half of the claims filed against her in a lawsuit by two insurance companies. Andrew Kissel was killed in 2006 just days before he was scheduled to plead guilty to forging documents to obtain more than $16 million in loans from banks and mortgage companies.
Expert: Boston Study At Root of Housing Crisis
The stunning rise in U.S. home foreclosures, which is a root cause of what has become the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, was made possible by flexible mortgage-lending standards championed by the Boston Fed in the mid-1990s, according to Stan Liebowitz, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Credit Crisis Fears Spark Global Stock Rout
Fears that the credit crisis will not be contained sparked panic selling across global stock markets on Monday and sent crude oil prices plunging as investors rushed for the safety of government bonds and gold.
Title Agent's License Suspended
Hundreds of Hoosiers on the verge of buying a government-owned home may have to wait a little longer because the state has suspended the owner of a young but important title company. Brandy Marie Foltz of Indianapolis-based Village Title is being investigated by the Indiana Department of Insurance.
Assembly OKs Bill to Prevent Foreclosures
The New Jersey Home Ownership Preservation Act establishes a $30 million fund to pay for emergency loans, counseling services and efforts by nonprofits to buy foreclosed properties and return them to productive uses.
Wachovia Confident Deal Will Go Ahead
Wachovia Corp., the beleaguered bank at the center of a fight between Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. over who will buy it, is moving ahead with its deal to sell itself to Wells Fargo. Wachovia responded Sunday to a judge's order temporarily blocking the sale of the bank to Wells Fargo, saying it does not believe the order "has any effect on the validity of the Wells Fargo agreement with Wachovia."
1 Hurdle Down, Many More to Go for The Economy
The extraordinary $700 billion financial rescue plan that President Bush signed into law Friday will begin the process of healing a battered financial system. But it's only the start of a journey that grows longer and more difficult with every turn in the road.
Independent Title Agents Sue
A group of title agents has gone to the Ohio Supreme Court to stop banks, real-estate agents and mortgage companies from steering business to affiliated title companies.
As Loan Volume Leaps, So Do Worries About FHA
In the current credit squeeze, if you have less than a 20 percent down payment, there's pretty much only one major source of mortgage financing available: the Federal Housing Administration, a Depression-era home loan insurance agency that still offers 3 percent down, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with consumer-friendly credit standards, even on jumbo loans in high-cost areas of California and the East Coast.
Senate OKs $700B Bailout
The Senate on Wednesday upped pressure on the House to pass a $700 billion rescue for Wall Street by strongly approving a plan that supporters said would avert a potential economic disaster.
State Lowers Fine for Stewart Title
Stewart Title of Snohomish County, earlier fined nearly $2 million for repeatedly violating a law against providing real estate agents with excessive gifts and incentives, has agreed to pay $250,000 to resolve the issue, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Wednesday.
Modifying Some of Those Loans
As the Bush administration and Congress try to untangle the fallout from the defeat of the Wall Street bailout, foreclosures continue to climb, financial companies fail, and the middle class economic squeeze worsens by the day. One significant action doesn't need congressional approval and can make a big difference. Effective and wide-scale loan modification programs by lenders and mortgage holders can stop the freefall and begin the long way back to a sustainable economy.
Fannie and Freddie Break Up Their Powerhouse Lobbying Operations
Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have dismantled their powerful lobbying corps, removing two dozen people who made up one of Washington's most formidable advocacy teams.
Stewart Title Settles with State
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has fined Stewart Title of Snohomish County $400,000, with $150,000 of that suspended, under a settlement on charges the company gave illegal gifts and incentives to real estate agents.
Controversial Home-Closing Rule Charges Forward in Washington; Price Competition, Settlement Fees Impacting Millions of Homebuyers at Stake
In the midst of a national housing crisis, a proposed rule is fast tracking through the regulatory process in Washington that could impact millions of future U.S. homebuyers. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) insists consumers need "packaged" settlement services from "preferred" providers, and a "closer" to read closing documents aloud from a script.
Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Declined 16.3% in July
The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index dropped 16.3 percent from a year earlier, more than forecast, after a 15.9 percent decline in June. The gauge has fallen every month since January 2007, and year-over-year records began in 2001.
U.S.Lawmakers Seek Dozen Votes to Save Rescue
For all of Wall Street's disappointment over a failed government rescue, saving the plan to absorb $700 billion (388 billion pounds) in bad investments is in theory as easy as finding a dozen votes in limbo.
U.S. House Rejects $700 Billion Financial-Rescue Plan
The financial-rescue plan intended to restore confidence in the U.S. banking system collapsed in partisan wrangling as the House of Representatives voted down the proposal backed by the Bush administration and congressional leaders of both parties. Markets plunged as the House rejected, by a vote of 228 to 205
Bailout's Failure Bad News for Housing Market
Bailout's failure bad news for housing marketThe recession in the U.S. housing market is expected to be deeper, longer and scarier if lawmakers continue to be deadlocked in their effort to pass a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry.
Bailout Failure Throws Banks Into Disarray
The failure of a massive $700 billion bailout financial plan Monday removes a critical firewall intended to keep the credit market collapse from spilling over into the global economy.But even if the plan is somehow revived, cracks are beginning to widen in the foundations of the global banking system.
U.S. Lawmakers Fault States for AIG Collapse
State insurance regulators are angry that four members of Congress who support federal oversight of the industry are blaming states in part for the collapse of insurance giant American International Group Inc., an event that escalated the financial crisis on Wall Street.
Leaders Plead for a Yes Today
House and Senate leaders yesterday anxiously pleaded with skeptical lawmakers to accept a bipartisan $700 billion financial bailout plan, saying the package was crucial to calm the markets and stave off what they warned could be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Paulson Must Make $700 Billion Rescue for Banks Work
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and congressional Democrats hammered out a consensus on spending up to $700 billion to rescue the financial industry. There isn't consensus on whether it would work.
Bailout Includes No Bankruptcy Aid for Homeowners
As congressional negotiators labored over the giant financial bailout plan last week, business leaders saw little to applaud in more than a few of the ideas under discussion, including one that proposed changing the nation's bankruptcy laws to make it easier for homeowners to downsize troubled home mortgages.
How Fannie -- and You -- Bought a Hapless House
The American taxpayers own Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, dozens of parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, forests, pastureland, government complexes and historic sites. And now, for all intents and purposes, the American people are the major stakeholders in a little townhouse at 14746 Barksdale St. in Dale City.
New Program Finds Errors in Over 80 Percent of ARM Loans
You Walk Away, LLC, a company that helps families facing foreclosure, has introduced a new product which performs a comprehensive investigation of mortgage documentation. Based on loan audits the company has already conducted, over 80 percent of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) revealed major TILA (Truth in Lending Act) and RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) predatory lending practices and real estate/mortgage fraud violations, the company said, giving the homeowner grounds to request a loan modification.
California Toughens Requirements for Title Marketers
Representatives of title marketing firms will have to get a license of they plan to work in California under a new law. The requirement is designed to put an end to payoffs that often raise the cost of title insurance for new homeowners, says state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, author of the measure.
Ginnie Mae Doing Well Due to U.S. Guarantees
Ginnie Mae, is reporting a record level of bond activity through August, filling the void left by other mortgage-backed security agencies hurt by the subprime mortgage crisis. Agency-guaranteed issues soared to a record $29 billion in August, the highest rate of issuance in Ginnie Mae's history.
Land Registry Goes Online
Plymouth County Registry of Deeds begins accepting electronic filing of documents
More Power for Bankruptcy Judges?
Some Democrats in Congress are pushing to allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages as part of the proposed $700 billion bailout for financial institutions that are straining under the weight of failing home loans.
Pricing Mortgage-backed Securities Will Be Tough
You probably know how much your checking account is worth. You may well know what your company's stock is worth. But what if you had to put a price on that '87 Dodge Omni rusting in the driveway? Your collection of Beanie Babies? How about that chipped Wedgewood you picked up at Bill's Scratch 'n Dent Shoppe?
FBI Said to Be Probing AIG, Lehman, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Under pressure to hold Wall Street accountable for the credit crisis, federal authorities have recently begun examining whether four large firms at the center of the debacle violated securities laws or committed other crimes, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.
Lawmakers on Bailout: Not So Fast
Beyond all the talk of illiquidity, distressed assets and reverse auctions, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had a very simple request for members of Congress on Tuesday: Give us what we need. Quickly. And, please, stay out of the way.
Paulson Calls For Federal Insurance Oversight
While testifying on the federal institution rescue plan, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today repeated calls for creation of a federal insurance regulatory system.
Bailout a Mystery with Lots of Questions
It's the largest government bailout in U.S. history and two days after it was introduced to the Americans paying for it, the proposal is still largely a mystery. Among the unanswered questions: How will the government mop up the bad mortgage debt on banks' books, who will run the process and how much will it cost?
State Officials Reject Paulson OFC Reasoning
State lawmakers and insurance regulators say federal regulators should focus on doing a better job rather than on expanding their jurisdiction to include the insurance industry.
GSE Oversight Powers Came Too Late: Regulator
The U.S. Congress gave a new regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stronger oversight powers too late to help steer the companies away from a government takeover, the chief regulator for the mortgage finance companies said on Tuesday.
Bear Stearns Subsidiary's Mortgage Mess
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Bros. may be dominating the financial headlines, but a little-noticed $28 million settlement earlier this month between the Federal Trade Commission and what's left of Bear Stearns symbolizes the housing boom-era loans - and practices - that started a lot of the trouble.
Bailout May Give Housing Market Some Breathing Room
The government's $700-billion plan to bail out the banking system may calm panicked financial markets, but its real value may be in buying time to address the root problem: the continuing slide in housing values.
Paulson Plan Hits Speed Bumps
It took only a few hours after its release for industry representatives and lawmakers to begin raising significant questions about the Treasury Department's legislative proposal to create a facility that would buy and hold up to $700 billion in troubled assets.Among the potential issues were that it lacked a clear definition of who could sell to the facility; what assets it would buy; how Treasury would determine the price of such assets; and accounting implications for banks that use the facility.
Government Might Turn Profit, But The Devil is in The Details
The government is starting a new waste-hauling business, driving up to the nation's leading financial institutions and giving them a fresh start by taking the garbage off their balance sheets. Once it collects all that trash, the government is expected to hold the world's largest garage sale of distressed securities and bad mortgages and business loans. Years from now, when the dust clears, the U.S. might even make money on the deal.
The Mortgage Buck Stops Where?
Like a subprime mortgage, Congress may soon put taxpayers on a risky hook for mortgages gone bad. The Bush administration wants authority to spend up to $700 billion, or about the cost of the Iraq war, to buy up troubled loans. A federal rescue effort may stem a financial market meltdown. But it shouldn't be done without a reckoning.
Americans' Addiction to Borrowing Root of Crisis
As Congress considers a plan for the government to take over hundreds of billions of dollars of bad debt from Wall Street, many economists say it is only treating the symptoms, rather than the cause, of the nation's economic problems.
Lehman Owes Freddie Mac At Least $1.2bn
US mortgage financier Freddie Mac on Thursday said Lehman Brothers owed it at least $1.2bn in unsecured loans. In a regulatory filing, Freddie said it had further potential exposure to Lehman, which filed for bankruptcy Monday, of about $400m related to the servicing of single-family home loans, including repurchasing obligations.
Crisis Poses Big Test of Markets' Regulator
The Securities and Exchange Commission is confronting its biggest test in nearly 75 years, when the agency was founded in response to a market crash that devastated ordinary investors.
Wall Street's Woes Being Felt By Consumers
It's been a shocking week on Wall Street ... and it's only Wednesday. Now the question is how much the financial crisis will batter already skittish consumers on America's Main Streets.
Senate to Stay in Session to Deal with Market Crisis
The Senate will stay in a pro-forma session so committees may meet in order to respond to the financial crisis rocking Wall Street, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday. Lawmakers were scheduled to recess on Sept. 26. The House will make a separate decision about recessing, the spokeswoman said.
AIG Bailout Doesn't Address Financial Meltdown's Causes
While the Federal Reserve's unprecedented effort to rescue insurance giant American International Group Inc. may provide a short-term fix to mitigate the more immediate damage, it will do little to solve the larger issues behind the ongoing financial and economic meltdown, experts said yesterday. And the bailout also doesn't help the dominoes that remain behind, potentially ready to fall even as AIG stays standing.
Washington Mutual is Looking for a Buyer
Written off by Wall Street investors, Washington Mutual Inc. put itself on the auction block Wednesday, looking for a buyer strong enough to absorb the huge mortgage loan and credit card losses racked up by the nation's largest savings and loan.
Fed Takes Control of AIG With $85 Billion Bailout
The U.S. government took control of American International Group Inc. in an $85 billion bailout to prevent the bankruptcy of the nation's biggest insurer and the worst financial collapse in history.
FHFA Appoints New Fannie and Freddie Chairmen
The newly created Federal Housing Finance Agency named Philip A. Laskawy non-executive chairman of Fannie Mae and John A. Koskinen non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac. The government removed the chief executives and chairmen of the mortgage giants on Sept. 7 when it put the companies in conservatorship.
Congress Dispute Strands US Flood Insurance Program
A senior Senate Republican urged the House of Representatives on Tuesday to back down and accept the Senate's terms in negotiations to renew the U.S. flood insurance program, set to expire in two weeks.
The Housing Crisis: How we Got Here
The subprime-mortgage meltdown and ensuing credit crunch resembles a Greek tragedy — a long one. It has meandered through several acts, taken numerous plot twists and involved an ever-growing cast of characters.
Mortgage and Title Insurers Suffer from Housing Woes
A new report from Standard & Poor’s graphically illustrates the declining fortunes of title insurers. Unlike most other insurers who receive regular premiums over the life of the policy, title insurers generally receive one payment and reserve against estimated future losses at that time. If those losses are higher than the title insurers anticipated, their profitability will erode, S& P says.
Observers: Bailout of Fannie, Freddie Needed, But it Won’t End Crisis
The federal government’s takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was a much-needed move to restore some confidence in the shaky financial industry, but it is unlikely to provide a major short-term boost to the local housing industry, according to interviews with bankers, brokers, builders, home buyers and sellers.
What Will Put a Floor Under Financial Crisis?
As financial markets braced themselves for another chaotic day on Monday, analysts have all but given up trying to call an end to a financial crisis that only seems to lurch from one disaster to the next.
Senators Ask that Conservatorship Freeze Foreclosures on GSE Mortgages
Four U.S. Senators have asked the conservators of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to freeze foreclosures on mortgages held by the companies for 90 days and to take immediate steps to assist homeowners by modifying delinquent loans.
Washington Mutual Hobbled By Increasing Defaults on Option ARMs
Washington Mutual Inc., the thrift that lost 92 percent of market value in the past year, is being dragged down by a mortgage product once hailed by former Chief Executive Officer Kerry Killinger as a boost to profit. As many as 45 percent of borrowers with payment-option adjustable-rate mortgages issued from 2004 to 2007 and bundled into securities may default, according to Fitch Ratings analysts
No Golden Parachutes for Ex-ceos At Fannie, Freddie
The government on Sunday said departing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae CEOs will not get the golden parachute payments in their contracts. Fannie's Daniel Mudd and Freddie's Richard Syron could have received, in total, up to $25 million, an amount that had come under heavy criticism as the government took over the financially battered mortgage giants. That takeover, which occurred a week ago Sunday, thrusts trillions of dollars of risk directly onto taxpayers' shoulders.
Senators Ask that Conservatorship Freeze Foreclosures on GSE Mortgages
Four U.S. Senators have asked the conservators of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to freeze foreclosures on mortgages held by the companies for 90 days and to take immediate steps to assist homeowners by modifying delinquent loans.
Consumer Debt Defaults Looming Large
With more people out of work, that likely means many are having a tougher time paying their bills. If that leads to a surge in defaults on debt assets beyond just mortgages, such as credit cards, auto loans and more, we can forget about the credit crisis being over any time soon.
U.S. Foreclosures Hit Record in August as Housing Prices Fell
U.S. foreclosure filings rose to a record in August as falling home prices made it harder to sell or refinance homes to pay off the mortgage, RealtyTrac Inc. said.
Chapter 472: New N.Y. Mortgage Foreclosure Legislation
Chapter 472 of the Laws of 2008, signed into law on Aug. 5, 2008, is complex legislation, imposing obligations on lenders making certain types of loans to natural persons on the security of one-to-four-family dwellings.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Wielded Big Clout in Washington
Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn't just dominate the nation's $12 trillion home loan market, they were also masters of influence in Washington. As government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed some $5 trillion in residential mortgages – a cushion for creating two of the most extensive lobbying operations in Washington.
Freddie, Fannie Were Big Campaign Donors
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) may not have managed their mortgage investments wisely, but the loan-funding giants used a savvy strategy of campaign contributions, based on an Investor's Business Daily analysis. The Federal Election Commission data, compiled by the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics, include contributions from Fannie and Freddie political action committees, now shut down under the Treasury Department's takeover.
Politicians Decry Payouts for Deposed Chiefs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
There's not much that Democrats and Republicans agree on these days, but there's one emerging issue on which they're in complete accord: The deposed chief executives who led mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into a financial swamp don't deserve to collect multimillion-dollar bonuses on their way out the door.
Inland Cities Scramble to Be Ready When HUD Announces Housing Guidelines
In anticipation of federal money to help them deal with a flood of foreclosures, housing agencies throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties are scrambling to put together plans to buy, rehabilitate and sell bank-owned houses to low- and moderate-income households.
Consumer Debt Defaults Looming Large
The government doesn't want Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to go broke, but it better start thinking about what happens if the rest of us do. The latest data on the job market paint an ugly picture: The unemployment rate shot to a five-year high in August, and payrolls are being cut at an alarming rate.
Homeowners with Good Credit Get Hit By Downturn
The Massachusetts mortgage crisis is going “prime time.” Late-payment problems are moving beyond people with high-cost subprime loans to hit record numbers of homeowners with “prime” mortgages, too.
Us Democrats Question Fannie, Freddie CEO Exit Pay
U.S. Democrats on Tuesday criticized the multimillion-dollar pay packages awarded to the former chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at a time when taxpayers could foot a massive bill for the companies' bailout. In a joint letter to Fannie and Freddie's regulator, Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island said the combined pay and bonus packages of about $24 million should be revised.
Falling Mortgage Rates May Lure More Home Buyers
A drop in mortgage rates that's accelerated since the government said it would take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has raised hopes that more buyers might be drawn into the housing market and help reverse the worst slump in decades.
Mortgage Industry Welcomes Federal Fix
The government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac instantly made it cheaper and easier to get a fixed-rate mortgage in Arizona and around the country. That could provide a welcome nudge for prospective home buyers and for existing homeowners to refinance into more secure loans.
Rate of Delinquencies and Foreclosures Increases
The number of Vermont homeowners falling behind on their mortgage payments rose a half a percent to 3.9 percent in the second quarter but the state's rate of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures continues to lag behind the rest of the country. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the seasonally adjusted national delinquency rate was a record 6.41 percent, up from 6.35 percent.
Statewide Demand for Foreclosure Moratorium Builds
Dozens of demonstrators descended on the Monroe County courthouse and the home of St. Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe, Washtenaw) Aug. 28 to demand that he immediately convene hearings on S.B. 1306, the two-year moratorium on foreclosures bill.
Treasury Extends Secured Credit Line to Federal Home Loan Banks
The U.S. Treasury extended a secured credit facility to the Federal Home Loan Banks, the government- chartered cooperatives, allowing them to borrow through the end of next year.
Report: Credit, Housing Market Woes Slam Mortgage Insurance Industry
The mortgage guaranty insurance industry experienced extremely high losses and negative operating returns in 2007 as mortgage defaults and foreclosures climbed rapidly. This was a sharp contrast to the record years of profitability earlier in the decade, during which most mortgage insurance companies added to their capital base, enabling them to better withstand the subsequent downturn in the housing market cycle, reported analysts in a new report.
What Rescue Means for Mortgage Rates
Bailout of mortgage giants should result in lower mortgage costs and make credit more available. But lending standards will stay tight and risky borrowers will still pay extra fees.
Dodd: Answers Needed In Takeover Of Housing Giants
Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd says there are many unanswered questions about the temporary federal takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Title insurance firm gets Toledo grant for $5,000
Title insurance agent Midland Title and Escrow Ltd. is the latest business to receive a Downtown Incentive Grant from the city of Toledo. Formerly a branch of First American Title Insurance Co. and known as First American/Midland Title, the firm became locally owned in June when employees Donald Mewhort III, Sandra Hylant, and Neal Mahoney purchased the branch’s assets.
Cash for a Share in Future Home Appreciation
Improbable as it sounds at a time when American homeowners have lost billions in equity holdings, a new industry is taking shape to help them tap portions of their equity wealth without incurring traditional mortgage debt or making interest payments.
Fed's Rosengren Sees More Risks Ahead
A credit crunch that began on Wall Street a year ago has spread throughout the banking system and muted the impact of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts aimed a boosting the struggling economy, said Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Mercury Cos. Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection
Denver-based Mercury Cos. Inc., which owns title companies, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In a filing Aug. 28 in federal bankruptcy court in Denver, Mercury Companies lists assets and liabilities estimated at between $50 million and $100 million.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Debt Funding Smooth
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac drew solid demand for $5 billion of new securities on Wednesday even as large overseas investors cut their exposure to the two troubled housing finance companies. The latest sales underscored their continued access to debt funding that is key to running their businesses and supporting the U.S. housing market.
Some Struggling Homeowners Find Way to Dodge Foreclosure
Though the number of homeowners facing or going through foreclosure has surged — filings rose 55% from July 2007 to July this year — thousands of other homeowners on the verge of losing their homes are finding last-minute ways to ward off foreclosure.
United Title Files Chapter 11
One month after United Title of Texas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Denver-based Mercury Companies Inc., closed all 27 of its offices around the state and laid off more than 100 employees, the former title insurance firm’s parent has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while it seeks to reorganize its business.
The latest worry in the ongoing mortgage mess concerns the fate of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But if most mortgages are being paid on time, just what is everyone so worried about?
Fitch Lowers Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac's Pfd Stock to 'BBB-' ; Affirms 'AAA' IDR & 'AA-' Sub Debt
Today's rating action follows an evaluation of FNM and FRE's capital adequacy and potential support from the US Treasury. While Fitch believes capital at both firms remains adequate for the intermediate term, the capital markets have significantly discounted the value of both common and preferred stocks, effectively limiting any potential issuance from either GSE.
Alliance Title, Financial Title Parent Files for Bankruptcy
The corporate parent of the former Alliance Title and Financial Title companies has filed bankruptcy in federal court in Colorado, its home base.
Homeowner Fraud Exacerbates Mortgage Crisis
Some homeowners tempted to buy a more affordable house in a declining market have committed fraud to ditch the supersized mortgage they no longer want. This month, Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored enterprise that buys and guarantee mortgages, began enforcing new guidelines that could help stop the practice, called "buy and bail."
Fannie-Freddie Doubts Grow
Shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell yesterday amid concerns foreign investors were reassessing their exposure to the troubled US mortgage financiers' bonds and guaranteed securities. Bank of China this week revealed it had cut its portfolio of securities issued or guaranteed by the two government-sponsored enterprises by a quarter, or $4.6bn, since the end of June.
The Fannie & Freddie Question
In Henry M. Paulson's first month as Treasury secretary, two deputies flagged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as significant risks to the economy.
Mortgage Brokers Must Join Registry
Pennsylvania has joined the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and that means mortgage companies and professionals licensed in the state must submit their information.
Housing Fix Backfires
A new law was supposed to make it easier for buyers in expensive markets to get affordable loans. Instead, rates are going up for everyone.
Fannie's Mudd Changes Management to Boost Confidence
Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mudd replaced three top deputies in an effort to restore investor confidence after record losses and a 90 percent drop in the shares.
Bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Should Be Last Resort
The US Treasury should only take direct control of ailing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a last resort, according to a detailed report on the pending fate of the pair written by Goldman Sachs.
Foreclosure predictions and dwindling sales
Existing-home sales in the Northeast were down nearly 12 percent last month when compared with July 2007, according to the latest figures from the National Association of Realtors. At the same time, the median sale price, or midpoint price, was $278,700, which is about 5 percent lower than the year-ago period.
Congressional Committee Will Assess Foreclosure Crisis
The House Committee on Financial Services will hold a hearing Sept. 6 in Stockton to examine the effects of the foreclosure crisis on neighborhoods throughout the Central Valley.
Problem Bank List Keeps Growing
FDIC says list of troubled banks in 2nd quarter grows to 117 with $78 billion in assets - up from 90 banks, $26 billion in assets in 1st quarter.
FDIC Says Has Options if Bank Failures Soar
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp has no current need to seek help from the U.S. Treasury Department to bolster reserves to meet an expected surge in bank failures, an agency spokesman said on Wednesday.
Home Prices Still Falling, but the Pace is Slowing
Home sales have begun to stabilize as sharply reduced prices lured buyers back into the market in July, according to a pair of reports issued this week. And prices, once plummeting at a breakneck pace, fell in June at a more moderate clip.
Backlog of Us Homes for Sale is Worst on Record
The number of unsold homes on the market in the United States is at levels not seen for at least 40 years, and prices are continuing to slide, according to a disheartening new survey.
Title Company Changing Name, Not Service
The slight change of name and logo at LandAmerica Transnation Title won't change what those who buy and sell real estate receive from Muskegon County's leading title company.
Vets Have Great Mortgage Deal
It's tough to get a mortgage today -- but that's not news. Every financial institution is tightening lending standards and requiring a higher down payment and raising interest rates. But if you're a veteran who has been honorably discharged from the military, you can get a great deal on a home loan.
Sale of Debt Steadies Freddie
Freddie Mac shares rose 17 percent Monday after a $2 billion sale of short-term debt stoked confidence that the second-largest U.S. mortgage-finance company can still attract investors.
Frank Talk From Barney Frank
The veteran congressman thinks his new law can help get us out of our housing slump. Meanwhile, he's not shy about saying who got us into it. Spend 27 years in Congress and you're bound to encounter more than one financial train wreck. But as Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., sees it, the meltdown in the U.S. housing market poses as much of a threat to the nation's economic well-being as anything he's encountered during his time on Capitol Hill.
Appraisers Still Getting Pressure on Prices
Have the real estate valuation shenanigans and inflated home appraisals that characterized the boom years disappeared from the marketplace? Are mortgage loan officers and realty agents - even individual home sellers - continuing to influence or attempting to interfere with appraisals despite new federal rules that ban such behavior?
Berkshire's Buffett Sees Economy in Recession, Weak Until 2009
Warren Buffett said the U.S. economy is still in a recession and unlikely to improve before 2009 but that stocks appear better valued than a year ago. The billionaire investor also said there is a "reasonable chance" shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may be wiped out in any government bailout of the mortgage financiers.
Freddie, Fannie Decline Diminishes Prospects of New Investors
The cost to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae of raising capital is getting more prohibitive by the day, making it likely that the government will have to inject cash into the largest U.S. mortgage finance companies.
Donegal Mutual to Acquire Conestoga Title Insurance
Conestoga Financial and Donegal Mutual Insurance Company have signed an agreement whereby a subsidiary of Donegal Mutual will acquire all of the outstanding capital stock of Conestoga Title Insurance and its affiliated companies that provide various title insurance services from Conestoga Financial.
Title Firm Ready to Do Battle
Ticor Title, one of the largest title insurance firms in the country, is suing Countrywide Home Loans, the nation's largest home lender, saying it shouldn't have to pay out on a title policy because of Countrywide's gross negligence.
How the Mortgage Giants Lead The Market Deeper Into Crisis
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are giants of the mortgage finance industry. But to investors, they're rapidly shrinking. And as they struggle, they're taking the housing market with them, reinforcing a downward spiral in which their troubles translate into pricier home loans and increasing foreclosures, in turn further undermining the companies.
Knowing Limits of Housing Data Is Key
For buyers and sellers alike, the cornucopia of housing and mortgage reports released regularly from the industry groups can be overwhelming. Experts caution that such data should only be used as a guide when deciding whether the time is right to buy, sell or refinance.
Fannie Mae Spurns New York Subprime Loans
Fannie Mae announced this week that it will no longer purchase or securitize any mortgage loan from the state of New York that “meets the definition of a subprime home loan under New York law, regardless of whether any provision of the law is preempted by federal law with respect to a particular mortgage or for a particular originator.”
HUD Tracks Housing Cost Trends
Over 20 years, median housing costs have risen 128%, from $348 per month to $793, while the proportion of household income spent on housing went from 19% to 22% in the same period, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Report “Trends in Housing Costs: 1985-2005 and the 30-Percent-of-Income Standard,” examined national cost trends from 1985 to 2005 for renters, homeowners with a mortgage and owners without a mortgage.
Help Available in Foreclosure
New legislation requires that the lenders give homeowners and the N.C. Banking Commission 45 days notice before a foreclosure is filed. It also gives the commission the power to negotiate with lenders on behalf of the consumer.
Mortgage Rates for Best Borrowers Rise as Home-Loan Bonds Slump
A decline in mortgage bond prices is raising interest rates on U.S. home loans, even for borrowers least prone to default.
Foreclosures Distort Housing Data
As if the housing market wasn't scary enough, the record-setting surge in foreclosures could be distorting some of the closely watched housing data used to gauge the market's health. The foreclosure glut is making listings of homes for sale a less reliable indicator, because much of the distressed inventory might be left out. In addition, fire-sale prices for such properties may also be skewing volume figures.
Regulator to Help IndyMac Mortgage Borrowers
Thousands of homeowners with distressed mortgage loans linked to failed lender IndyMac may soon be able to avoid foreclosure under a program announced on Wednesday by U.S. banking regulators.
Lenders Tighten Rules
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may or may not need a government bailout, but the turmoil surrounding the mortgage finance companies' decline has already meant four things for borrowers: higher interest rates, more fees and closing costs, bigger down payments and fewer loan choices.
Housing Starts Fall to January 1991 Level
Housing starts fell 11 percent in July from June to their lowest level since January 1991 as builders tried to rein in construction to reduce inventory.
More Negative Press for Fannie and Freddie
Last week former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan strongly criticized the form of the Congressionally mandated Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae "backstop" program and a survey by the Wall Street Journal found that a small majority of economists involved thought the bailout of the two government sponsored entities (GSEs) would ultimately be invoked, handing taxpayers responsibility for their $5.2 trillion debt.
Some Investors Say U.S. Bailout of Housing Giants Is Inevitable
Shares of the mortgage finance giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, declined almost 25 percent on Wednesday on concerns that the companies will need a bailout from the federal government.
Housing Starts Dip to Lowest Level Since March '91
Construction of homes and apartments fell in July to the lowest level in more than 17 years, the government reported Tuesday. The Commerce Department said that builders broke ground on 965,000 housing units on an annualized basis. That was down from a pace of 1.08 million in June and the weakest showing since March 1991.
U.S. Home Price Declines Stabilizing - Report
U.S. home prices appear to be stabilizing across the country even as foreclosures mount, First American CoreLogic said in its June 2008 LoanPerformance Home Price Index released on Monday.
'Liar Loans' Threaten to Prolong Mortgage Crisis
In the mortgage industry, they are called "liar loans" — mortgages approved without requiring proof of the borrower's income or assets. The worst of them earn the nickname "ninja loans," short for "no income, no job, and (no) assets."
5 Key Questions Answered on Housing Relief Act
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, signed into law by President Bush on July 30, has sparked numerous debates over its mechanisms to assist struggling homeowners, future homebuyers and lending institutions. However, some of the complex law's nuances are poorly understood, and certain provisions have received only a passing mention in news reports. In an effort to better explain the law, here are five key questions and answers:
Washington's Ultimate Solution
How to solve the financial crisis? Play for time, pray for markets to turn.
Suit Over Chicago House Could Set Up National Showdown
Ticor Title, one of the largest title insurance firms in the country, is suing Countrywide Home Loans, the nation's largest home lender, saying it shouldn't have to pay out on a title policy because of Countrywide's gross negligence. The suit, filed last month in Cook County Chancery Court, concerns just one Chicago mortgage made by Countrywide in 2007, but the implications are enormous, say real estate and title insurance experts.
Fannie, Freddie Plan to Raise Baseline Fees
The two biggest sources of mortgages for American home buyers plan to raise their base fees to counter what they see as continuing adverse conditions in the real estate marketplace.
A Sub Subprime Glossary for The Mortgage Scandal
Subprime was voted the word of the year by the American Dialect Society in recognition of the mortgage scandal and crisis that has for months enveloped housing and real estate around the United States. But that umbrella term, describing cheap - often suspiciously cheap - mortgages, encompasses a whole glossary of often-colorful expressions that could be described as sub subprime.
Real Estate Market Slump Slams Title Companies
As the real estate business goes, so go title insurance operations. And the struggles in housing markets across the country have started to wear on title companies in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Jumbo Rates May Fall as Larger Mortgages Enter Market
Jumbo mortgage borrowers may pay lower interest rates after a trade group loosened restrictions on a market for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage bonds to combat the housing slump.
Greenspan Excerpts: Housing Stabilization Key to Crisis End
Excerpts from an interview with former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan conducted by David Wessel, The Wall Street Journal’s economics editor.
SIFMA Limits Big Loans in Key Mortgage Bond Market
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can include, but must limit, the number of large mortgages packaged into bonds in a key part of the market to help contain costs for struggling U.S. housing borrowers, an industry group ruled on Thursday.
Freddie: Won't Buy New York Subprime Mortgages
Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac (FRE: 5.55 0.00%) took the first step in what some industry experts expect could be a wider trend in key local markets, and said Tuesday morning that it will not purchase mortgages in the state of New York that fall under the state’s new definition of "subprime."
US Foreclosure Filings Surge 55 Percent
The number of homeowners stung by the dramatic decline in the U.S. housing market jumped last month as foreclosure filings grew by more than 50 percent compared with the same month a year ago, according to data released Thursday.
25% of Home Sales Result in Loss
Values have fallen so far in many cities that sale prices don't cover what sellers originally paid. That means more hard times before markets recover.
Housing Recovery Act Depends on Banks to Refinance Mortgages
First-time homebuyers, veterans, senior citizens and delinquent mortgage holders may benefit from the newly enacted housing bill. How well it will work may depend on regulators and your bank.
Four Mortgage Companies Fined
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services announced Wednesday that it has issued cease-and-desist orders and fines against four mortgage companies for violating the state's lending laws.
Nehemiah Using Web in Bid to Boost Program
Sacramento-based Nehemiah Corp. of America is turning to the Web to rally support for a down payment assistance program killed last month by Congress and President Bush.
Mortgage Giants Find a Bright Spot in Rental Financing
In recent weeks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have experienced painful losses stemming from the housing crisis; their shares have plummeted and an emergency bailout plan has been enacted in case either government-sponsored company fails. But both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, though often associated exclusively with single-family housing, are rapidly increasing their multifamily portfolios.
The Next Wave of Mortgage Defaults
More borrowers with good credit are defaulting on their home loans, and that's going to make it even harder for the staggering housing market to recover.
Land Records Go Online -- But They're Pricey
Searching real estate property records online instead of wasting valuable time and gas driving to the local courthouse makes perfect sense to Reed Adams, whose job requires frequent document checks.
Real Estate and Credit Woes Take Toll on Title Insurers: Report
In some ways, the title insurance business isn’t really all that complex. Revenues depend primarily on just two inter-related factors: the level of house prices, and the demand for housing. And, of course, both are suffering in one of the worst housing corrections in U.S. history thus far.
Oregon Pre-foreclosure Filings Set Record in July
Filings of first notices to homeowners late on their mortgage payments jumped to a record level in Oregon and around the nation in July, according to a small California company that sells courses on how to make money buying foreclosed houses.
Fannie, Freddie Must Resolve Identity Crisis
Fannie Mae lost $2.3 BILLION dollars in the past three months, and its cousin Freddie Maclost nearly $1 billion, bringing its one-year total loss to nearly $5 billion. Where did all the money go?
Fannie, Freddie to Take Less Risk
Gaping losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are causing the two mortgage giants to slow their purchases of home loans at a time when the government is counting on them to help prop up the housing market.
Insurance commissioner monitoring Mercury Cos. deal
The Colorado Division of Insurance is monitoring the sale of Mercury Cos.’ Colorado businesses to ensure that consumers are protected, state officials said Friday.
Mortgage Bankers Group Spent $1.2M Lobbying in 2Q
The Mortgage Bankers Association spent more than $1.2 million lobbying in the second quarter as lawmakers passed legislation intended to bring sweeping changes for the industry, according to a recent disclosure report.
Fannie Mae Posts Hefty Loss, Cuts Dividend
Reuters) - Fannie Mae on Friday posted its fourth straight quarterly loss as home loan defaults increased and said it would slash its dividend more than 85 percent and take other steps to shore up its capital position.
No Help In Housing Meltdown
Congress and the president need to do more to regulate the home lending industry. The bill President Bush signed into law late last month does not go nearly far enough. And it does not recognize that the home lending crisis is having a disproportionate impact on black and Latino families.
Covered Bonds Offer Hope to The Housing Market
Investors and banks are looking to jumpstart a new form of mortgage debt to help the housing market just when it needs it most.
Delinquencies for 2007 Mortgages Outpacing 2006: Report
Delinquencies of prime mortgages originated in 2007 are outpacing those made in 2006, suggesting the U.S. housing and financial crisis may be deeper than initial estimates, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.
Freddie Mac's Negative Net Worth Raises Questions
By Freddie Mac's own admission, it has a negative net worth -- the latest reported net market value of the mortgage giant's assets is negative $5.6 billion
Big Loss, Grim Outlook At Freddie Mac
Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac on Wednesday reported a much bigger-than-expected loss, slashed its dividend and warned of more problems ahead for the battered housing and credit markets.
Lenders First Choice Shuts Down, Closes Metro Orlando Unit
A California-based title insurance agency has shuttered its Metro Orlando operation and other offices across the country, displacing scores of employees and customers, officials said Tuesday.
Property I.D. and HUD Establish New Industry Standards for Natural Hazards Disclosure Practices
For the first time nhd statements will be considered as part of regulated real estate settlement service HUD lawsuit resolved.
More Misery for US Mortgage Firm
As mortgage defaults climb and house prices sink, it made a loss of $821m in the three months to the end of June, down from a profit of $729m. Shares in Freddie Mac fell sharply last month on fears that it would run out of money to fund its business.
Fannie Mae to Lift Mortgage Fees, Raising Loan Costs
Fannie Mae, the largest U.S. mortgage- finance company, will raise a fee it charges lenders to buy their mortgages or guarantee home-loan securities, a move that may increase costs for borrowers. Fannie Mae's ``adverse market delivery charge,'' introduced earlier this year for all mortgages that the company helps finance, will rise to 0.50 percentage point on Oct. 1, from 0.25 percentage point.
SEC Holds Panel on Subprime Accounting
The Securities and Exchange Commission held a roundtable discussion on the performance of International Financial Reporting Standards and U.S. generally accepted accounting principles during the subprime crisis.
Syron's Side of The Story
Syron yesterday defended his loan decisions, arguing that Freddie needed to take additional risk to meet its government mandate to provide affordable housing. Although a private company, Freddie Mac was created by Congress to expand mortgage credit and home ownership.
At Freddie Mac, Chief Discarded Warning Signs
The chief executive of the mortgage giant Freddie Mac rejected internal warnings that could have protected the company from some of the financial crises now engulfing it, according to more than two dozen current and former high-ranking executives and others.
Law Tries to Limit Ties Between Agents and Financial Service Providers
Real estate agents are clearly the most influential people in every real estate transaction, and their power is not reserved for buyers and sellers. It extends to all professionals involved.
And Now Brace For the Bigger Wave of Mortgage Defaults
There are signs that the sub-prime collapse is, finally, beginning to stabilize: The rate at which delinquencies are rising has started to flatten, especially on pre-2007 vintages (in part because mortgages that are paid or or houses that are foreclosed on don't count). But now, says Vikas Bajaj at the NYT, a larger wave of prime and Alt-A defaults is likely to take over. If so, this will likely finish blowing many bank balance sheets to smithereens.
Mercury Cos. Caught in Real Estate Slump
A Denver-based title insurance company that did an estimated $100 million in business in the state last year appears to be the latest victim of the slumping housing market. Mercury Cos., which abruptly closed its out-of-state title companies last week, said it was negotiating to sell its four Colorado companies to California-based First American Corp.
Foreclosure Rescue Scams Multiply
States and the federal government are using new laws and lawsuits to fend off a wave of scams in which con artists prey on homeowners facing foreclosure.
Housing Lenders Fear Bigger Wave of Loan Defaults
The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is quickly building. Homeowners with good credit are falling behind on their payments in growing numbers, even as the problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing their first, tentative signs of leveling off after two years of spiraling defaults.
Old Republic Loss Widens to $364.7 Million on Impairment Cost
Old Republic International Corp. adjusted results, saying its second-quarter loss widened to $364.7 million from $45.4 million after the insurer made an accounting change to reclassify investment losses. The net loss increased to $1.58 a share from the previously reported 20 cents, the Chicago-based company said yesterday in a statement released after regular business hours. The change didn't affect operating results.
Title Insurer First American Swings to a Profit, Beats Estimates
Shares of title insurer First American Corp. jumped 12% after the company reported second-quarter profit that beat analysts' estimates. The Santa Ana company had net income of $42 million, or 45 cents a share, contrasted with a loss of $66 million, or 68 cents, a year earlier. Profit excluding an investment loss was about 48 cents a share, beating the 43-cent estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Title Agency Abruptly Shut
Up until this week, Arizona Title Agency's 22 workers felt secure about the financial health of their employer.But in a matter of hours Tuesday, the company was shut down by its Colorado-based parent, Mercury Cos. Inc.
Housing Plan Signed, But Concerns Linger
The giant housing rescue plan President Bush signed Wednesday might help stanch the bleeding in the housing market, but experts on both sides of the political divide worry that it is, at best, only an emergency step.
U.S. Economy Grew Less Than Forecast Last Quarter
The U.S. economy expanded less than forecast in the second quarter as the drag from housing and rising unemployment blunted the impact of federal tax rebates.
Financial Title Closes Its 57 Offices
Financial Title of Citrus Heights has closed all 57 of its California offices, including some in the Bay Area. But a state official said its customers will continue to have their titles processed by the company's insurer and shouldn't be greatly inconvenienced.
United Title Shuts Down Texas Operations
United Title of Texas has shut down its statewide operations. The title insurance firm, owned by Mercury Cos. of Colorado, had 22 offices and about 190 employees. The Texas locations, including 10 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, were closed after the parent company decided to discontinue operations outside of Colorado.
SEC to Examine Subprime Accounting
The Securities and Exchange Commission plans to hold a roundtable discussion on Aug. 4 to compare the performance of International Financial Reporting Standards and U.S. generally accepted accounting principles during the recent period of market turmoil caused by the subprime loan crisis.
Merrill Lynch Dumping Subprime Mortgage Bonds for Pennies on The Dollar
Will a fire sale at Merrill Lynch & Co. force similar moves by other investment banks? That was the big question Tuesday on Wall Street after Merrill's surprise decision to dump a huge chunk of troubled mortgage bonds for pennies on the dollar.
Cracking Down on Mortgage Scammers
The Justice Department is going after real estate fraud. The 400-plus people charged nationwide racked up $1 billion in losses. Here's what they are finding.
Fannie, Freddie On a Tightrope
The collapse in the stock prices of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier this month, followed by an equally dramatic rebound, underscored the vulnerability of today's agitated markets to panic and the mercurial behavior of global traders.
Home-loan Bill Expected to Save Banks Billions
Congress' plan to allow people to refinance into more affordable mortgages won't just relieve thousands of homeowners - it's also expected to save the banks who issued the loans billions of dollars.
Merrill To Write Down Assets
Merrill Lynch said yesterday that it would take a $5.7 billion write-down in the third quarter as it unloads a large chunk of the risky mortgage-backed securities that have plagued the banking sector during the ongoing credit crunch.
Study: Housing Supply is Down
The supply of homes is down but rising foreclosures and tighter credit are putting downward pressure on U.S. home prices, The Wall Street Journal reports.The newspaper said Monday its quarterly survey of housing data found the supply of homes declined in 19 of the 28 big city areas studied.
CCH Explains Housing Bailout Bill
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, designed to reduce foreclosures, strengthen the housing market and shore up lending institutions will also change the amounts many taxpayers owe to the IRS, according to CCH. For CCH's Special Tax Briefing on the Act, go to: http://tax.cchgroup.com/legislation/2008-Housing-Assistance-Act.pdf
U.S. Housing, Bank Regulators Summoned to Meet on Housing Bill
U.S. housing and banking regulators have been summoned to Capitol Hill this week in a bid to speed enactment of sweeping housing legislation lawmakers passed this weekend, Senator Christopher Dodd said.
U.S. Foreclosures Double as House Prices Decline
U.S. foreclosure filings more than doubled in the second quarter from a year earlier as falling home prices left borrowers owing more on mortgages than their properties were worth. One in every 171 households was foreclosed on, received a default notice or was warned of a pending auction.
Huge Housing Bill Set to Become Law
The House yesterday easily approved legislation that seeks to slow the steepest slide in house prices in a generation, rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure and reassure global markets that mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not be allowed to fail.
Wall Street Shrinks From Competing With Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
The two government-sponsored companies, chartered to make it easier for lenders to support home buying, have been accused of crooked accounting and criticized by Warren Buffett and Alan Greenspan for speculating, while a bank lobbying campaign sought to end the implicit U.S. guarantee of their debt. And yet, yesterday the House of Representatives voted to rescue them from losses on subprime loans with an unlimited equity infusion.
Potential Impact of Federal Housing Package
The House approved on Wednesday and President Bush dropped his opposition to a far-reaching housing package designed to reinvigorate the real estate market and economy, shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and assist struggling property owners. The bill could become law as early as next week.
Limits on Title Loans Called a 'Good Start'
State officials moved Wednesday to close a loophole that has allowed title loan companies to dodge consumer protection rules the state implemented seven years ago.
Growing Loan Losses to Hamper Us Economy -moody's
A weak U.S. economy will likely struggle into 2009, as more borrowers default on their debt, posing a growing burden on the financial system, Moody's Economy.com said in a report on Wednesday.
Many Share Blame for Housing Crisis
From home buyers to Wall Street bankers to federal regulators, they all played a role.
A Fannie-Freddie Rescue Could Cost $25B
A federal rescue of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost taxpayers as much as $25 billion, Congress' top budget analyst said Tuesday.
Head of Mortgage Bankers Association to Resign
The head of a major mortgage industry trade group is stepping down after more than seven years at the organization and is being replaced by the former president of a California mortgage company that shut down last year.
Record Home Losses in California
The price tag for the nation's housing crisis escalated again with reports Tuesday that a record number of Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in the last three months and that a potential bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could reach $25 billion.
Wachovia and Washington Mutual Post Billions in Mortgage Losses
Wachovia Corp. and Washington Mutual Inc. posted billions of dollars in mortgage losses Tuesday, far more than analysts had forecast, but their stocks rose as investors apparently concluded that the home-lending sector could work through its deep troubles.
A Housing Rescue Nears – But for Whom?
As Congress heads into a critical week of votes on how to relieve America's home-foreclosure crisis, one of the toughest issues will be how to deal with the racial and ethnic dimensions of the problem. Minorities will be watching closely to see who gets the help.
Paulson to Congress: Pass Rescue Plan
Treasury Secretary says proposal is key to restoring confidence in mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Wachovia to Stop Buying Loans From Mortgage Brokers
Wachovia Corp., will stop accepting home loans made by mortgage brokers as it struggles with the fallout from its 2006 acquisition of Golden West Financial Corp. The move by the fourth-largest U.S. bank in terms of assets takes effect Friday.
Fannie, Freddie May Record More Losses, OFHEO Says
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may need to record more writedowns after they expanded their purchases of non-guaranteed subprime and Alt-A mortgage securities just as other investors fled to safer investments, their regulator said.
FDIC in Mess Over Subprime Loans-WSJ
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, a regulator of U.S. banks, is itself embroiled in a mess related to subprime mortgages, the Wall Street Journal said on Monday, citing court documents.
Freddie Mac May Slow Purchases of Mortgages, Bonds
Freddie Mac, the second-largest U.S. mortgage-finance company, may cut purchases of home loans from banks and bonds backed by housing debt to shore up its capital amid record delinquencies.
New Regulator in Rescue Plan Spurs Debate
WASHINGTON — When the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., orchestrated a rescue effort for the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies last week, most of the attention was focused on the infusion of cash and credit that the government would provide. But his plan also relies on the creation of a new regulatory agency to control the companies more tightly over the long term and to limit the risk they pose to the country's financial system.
Mortgage Market Weathers Storms
The tribulations of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and IndyMac Bank have dominated headlines for more than a week, but the mortgage industry is more or less thumping along at the rate it was before the market went into convulsions.
Foreclosures Ravage Parts of County Where Many Used Risky Loans
Sharply falling housing prices have become an unavoidable fact of life this year, but nowhere in San Diego County has the battered real estate market had more of a striking impact than in a number of central and south county neighborhoods where subprime lending was rampant.
Fed Prohibits Subprime 'Liar's Loans' - Banks to Verify Borrowers' Incomes
The federal government has put its foot down: A lender can't give you a subprime mortgage unless you are able to repay it. And that goes for jumbo mortgages, too -- maybe.You're probably wondering why the government finds it necessary to tell lenders that they shouldn't hand over the money before figuring out whether borrowers can afford the monthly mortgage payments. That seems awfully basic. But for a while, verifying a borrower's ability to pay was out of fashion.
Need a Mortgage Now? Bring Lots of Cash
Between higher fees and and larger down payment requirements, buyers have to pony up more money than ever these days just to land a loan.
Pace of Defaults in California Slows During June
The number of California homeowners entering into foreclosure fell slightly during June, marking the fourth consecutive month of essentially flat activity in Notices of Default, the first step of the mortgage default process. According to ForeclosureRadar, which released the report, defaults may be stabilizing at a high shelf — but the number of borrowers able to exit the default pipeline once it begins is as bad as it’s ever been.
FBI 'Probes US Mortgage Lender'
Failed Californian mortgage lender IndyMac is reportedly being probed by US officials over suspected fraud. Media reports say the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inquiry involves the bank's practice of giving home loans to risky borrowers.
Moves to Back Mortgage Giants Should Benefit Home Buyers
The U.S. Treasury's plan to shore up confidence in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is good news for consumers, especially those looking for loans. The Treasury and Federal Reserve plan to ask Congress for a temporary increase in a longstanding line of credit for the two companies to ensure that there is sufficient cash available for home lenders.
Federal Reserve Tightens Mortgage Rules
Faced with an expanding housing crisis, federal officials took steps to shore up the nation's largest sources of mortgage funds at the same time they issued stiffer mortgage rules to prevent a repeat of the subprime debacle.
Fannie, Freddie Downgraded by Moody’s
The hits keep on coming for Fannie Mae and Freddie MacTuesday morning, Moody’s Investors Service said it had downgraded key credit ratings at both GSEs over concerns about “diminished financial flexibility.” Fannie saw its preferred stock rating fall to A1 from Aa3, while its bank financial strength rating was knocked to B- from B; Freddie saw similar cuts to its preferred stock rating and financial strength, as well.
Congressional Reaction To Fannie-Freddie Plan
Democratic leaders are giving the Treasury Department's plans to rescue the giant mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a favorable reception on Capitol Hill. The plan, which includes extending the companies' total line of credit to 300 billion dollars, would be attached to the housing bill now making its way through Congress.
Fannie, Freddie Lure Debt Investors as Shares Plunge
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are returning to favor among bond investors even as stockholders lose confidence after the Treasury threw its support behind the biggest U.S. mortgage-finance companies.
WaMu Shares Plunge 35 Percent
Shares of Washington Mutual slid 35 percent Monday to their lowest level in more than 17 years after IndyMac Bancorp's collapse spurred concern more lenders are vulnerable to bad home loans.
Fed's War Against Shady Home Loans
In a nod to consumer advocates, regulators require lenders to evaluate subprime borrowers' ability to pay while banning most prepayment penalties.
Mortgage Giants Falter
Their odd names hint at something significant: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren't ordinary corporations, and when they're in trouble, the whole US economy takes notice. It's not an exaggeration to say that the cost of mortgages, the value of people's homes, and even America's path through the current economic slowdown all hang to some extent on these mammoth conveyors of credit.
U.S. Treasury, Fed Step In To Assist Freddie, Fannie
A U.S. government plan to restore confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would temporarily raise the Treasury Department's credit line to the two mortgage financiers. The idea is to shore up the finances of the two companies and keep money flowing to the mortgage market.
Fed Looks to Protect Homebuyers From Shady Lending Tactics
Confronted by record foreclosures, the Federal Reserve is ready to give homebuyers more protection from the types of shady lending practices...
Regulators Seize Indymac Bancorp
Federal regulators seized IndyMac Bancorp on Friday evening, marking one of the largest bank failures in American history. The bank, once part of Countrywide Financial Corp., is the first major bank to shut its doors since the mortgage crisis erupted more than a year ago
U.S. Bank Acquisitions Stall on Housing Slump, Defaulted Loans
U.S. banks are merging at the slowest pace in at least 15 years as the mortgage-market collapse depletes capital and makes lenders wary of buying firms saddled with bad loans.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Losses Make Them `Insolvent,' Poole Says
Borrowing at Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage company, has never been so expensive and it may not get better any time soon. ``Congress ought to recognize that these firms are insolvent, that it is allowing these firms to continue to exist as bastions of privilege, financed by the taxpayer,'' Poole, 71, who left the Fed in March, said in an interview.
New California Law Offers a Shield on Mortgage Defaults
Mortgage lenders must contact California home borrowers to discuss loan modifications by phone or in person before entering foreclosure proceedings under a new law Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Tuesday.Senate Bill 1137, which takes effect immediately, prohibits lenders from filing a default notice until 30 days after contacting a borrower or making legitimate attempts to do so.
Fed to Clamp Down on Exotic and Subprime Loans
With no end in sight to the turbulence in the housing and financial markets, the chairman of the Federal Reserve said on Tuesday morning that it would issue new lending rules next week to restrict exotic mortgages and high-cost loans for people with weak credit. At a forum in Arlington, Va., on lending for low- and moderate-income households, Mr. Bernanke said Bear Stearns’s difficulties had highlighted weaknesses in the financial system that policy makers were trying to address. He said they included poorly underwritten mortgages, regulatory gaps, tight credit and insufficiently capitalized financial institutions.
HUD to Probe Bank-real-estate Deals
A federal agency has agreed to examine whether marketing agreements between at least three Colorado real-estate firms and several banks violate consumer-protection laws. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Countrywide Home Loans Inc. and JPMorgan Chase were among the mortgage lenders involved in the agreements.
Fannie, Freddie Shares Sink as Rule Change Raised
Shares of big U.S. mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tumbled in trading Monday after Lehman Brothers analysts raised the possibility that accounting-rule changes in the works could require both companies to raise billions of dollars in capital.
Indymac to Exit Most Home Lending, Slash 3,800 Jobs
IndyMac to exit most home lending, slash 3,800 jobs Los Angeles Times Staff Writer July 8, 2008 IndyMac Bancorp, once a leader in the nontraditional home loans that helped drive the housing boom, all but quit the mortgage business Monday and said it would lay off 3,800 people, more than half its staff, in the wake of growing defaults by borrowers.
Mortgage Rescission Could Be Class Action Nightmare for U.S. Banks
A lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin couple against their mortgage lender could have major implications for banks should a U.S. appeals court agree that borrowers can cancel their loans en masse when their lenders violate a federal lending disclosure law.
Lenders May Hold Up Home Closings in Flooded Areas
Sharon Stehmeier has been a real estate broker for 38 years, and has never had a flood derail a closing. Yet. Home loan lenders in some parts of the Midwest are starting to enact their natural disaster procedures, which typically affect any house in a federal disaster area that is in the process of being sold.
Arresting Times: Law Enforcement Agencies Cracking Down on Mortgage Fraud
As the fallout from the housing slump continues to mount, mortgage fraud continues to top the list of problems throughout the United States and in Dallas-Fort Worth's own backyard. In June, federal agents arrested 60 people in 15 districts across the country on mortgage fraud, including at least nine who participated in fraud in Metroplex homes.
Fortes Launches Nationwide Mortgage Platform
As the origination industry continues to contract, it’s certainly worth noting whenever a new lender makes the decision to jump in — doubly so when that lender starts off with a nationwide wholesale mortgage operation.
Bush: Housing Deal Possible with `less Politics'
President Bush expressed confidence Tuesday he will reach a deal with Congress on a housing-rescue plan, but only if lawmakers show "less politics." The president's comments came as many homeowners are saddled with mortgage payments they can't afford and face foreclosure.
Bank of America Completes Countrywide Buy
Bank of America Corp completed the acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corp on Tuesday, clearing the way for thousands of job cuts as the No. 2 commercial bank seeks to prove it can revive the largest U.S. mortgage lender.
Wachovia Moves Away From Pick-a-payment Home Loan
Wachovia will no longer offer home loans with a minimum payment option that allows borrowers to pay less than the interest owed, causing the balance to grow rather than shrink. Consumer advocates have called the mortgages fit for only a small group of sophisticated customers.
Vacant Homes Spread Blight in Suburb and City Alike
In Mesa, Ariz., officials are trying to decide what to do about boarded-up McMansions that become party pads, trashed in raucous "raves" where invitations come by text message. In Atlanta, thieving from abandoned properties is so bad that police caught one man building a new house entirely of pilfered materials from empty homes.
Piper Jaffray Cuts Estimates on Title Insurers
Piper Jaffray lowered its earnings estimates on two major title insurers, citing the persistent decline of the U.S. housing market. Analyst Robert Napoli said refinancing origination volume has "slowed significantly" as mortgage rates increase and the number of houses sold declines.
Mortgage Rates Creeping Upward
As if the real estate slump weren't severe enough — with prices sinking and foreclosures dumping ever more homes on the market — another threat has emerged: rising mortgage rates.Low rates helped fuel the housing boom, and rates had remained relatively low even after the boom ended more than two years ago.
Senator Stalls Housing Relief With Call for Energy Credits
A Republican senator from Nevada, home to the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, yesterday blocked an ambitious plan to help troubled borrowers save their homes, saying he will not permit the measure to go forward unless the Senate adds tax breaks to encourage the production of renewable energy.
Free Foreclosure Details
ForeclosurePoint is now providing free details on more than 1.2 million foreclosure properties nationwide, the Bellevue company announced Wednesday.
Stewart Title Services closing 5 area offices
Stewart Title Services Corp. will close the doors to five of its Indianapolis-area offices Tuesday and consolidate operations at 20 E. 91st St. The Houston-based title insurance company will lay off 15 Indianapolis employees, leaving 19 staff members in the city, said state manager Tom Fickle. He said the title business has been hit hard by the subprime mortgage crisis and a difficult housing market.
SEC Starting Study on Financial Disclosure
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday it will study how the agency obtains information from public companies, brokerage firms, mutual funds and other financial players, and how it makes that data available to the public.
Senate Advances $300 Bil Mortgage-Rescue Measure
A government plan to take on up to $300 billion in distressed mortgages advanced in the Senate on Tuesday with overwhelming support. Much work remains to iron out differences with the House and overcome a White House veto threat. But the 83-9 procedural vote suggests a deal is within reach.
Illinois to Sue Countrywide
The Illinois attorney general's office plans to sue Countrywide Financial Corp and Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo on Wednesday, claiming the troubled mortgage lender engaged in deceptive trade practices.
Four Years of Gains in Home Prices Wiped Out
Home prices across 20 major U.S. cities have dropped a record 15.3% in the past year and are now back to where they were in the summer of 2004, according to the Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's. Prices in the 20 cities are now down 17.8% from the peak two years ago. Prices were lower in April than they were a year earlier in all 20 of the major metropolitan areas as tracked by the Case-Shiller index.
Veto Threatened for Housing Bill
The White House issued a fresh veto threat yesterday against a plan to rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure, raising objections to Senate negotiators' proposal to fund the program.
Fannie, Freddie Fail to Relieve Housing by Shunning Jumbo Loans
Three months after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won the freedom to step up home-loan purchases, the government-chartered mortgage-finance companies are doing what critics in the Federal Reserve and Congress had predicted.
System Criticized as Slow
Tem Barrett, a longtime mortgage broker in Ardmore, used to buy and sell land in two other states, Texas and Georgia. He concludes that it takes far too long to get an abstract completed so a transaction can take place in Oklahoma, at least in his rural county. "To me, the Oklahoma system is just a tedious process that is slow," Barrett said.
Errors in Lien Data Could Cost Buyers
Sloppy real-estate records in Franklin County could threaten home buyers with foreclosure and bump up the price of title insurance, title examiners say. They're nervous that they're missing liens hidden in the Franklin County Common Pleas clerk of courts' computer system.
Shaky Job Market Threatens Housing Recovery
housing Slump Rivals Deepest Slowdowns in 60-plus Years: Report
The housing slump, already shaping up to be the worst in a generation, still hasn't run its full course, according to Harvard University's annual report on housing, released on Monday. And if job losses accelerate in coming months, it could take even longer for local markets to regain their footing, said Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the university's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Job losses could be "the last shoe to drop, but a pretty heavy shoe," he said in a telephone interview.
Surveyors Report: Doing the Right Thing
Everyone faces this dilemma: "Will I do the right thing, even if it will cost me something, or do the wrong thing, because it's easier or others do it?" When I was a teenager, my mom would ask, "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?" Of course it depended on how high the bridge, and how deep the water.
Bankrupt Alliance Title Has $100m in Liabilities, Few Assets
A bankruptcy filing by Campbell-based Alliance Title Co. shows a company deeply in debt to thousands of creditors, beset by lawsuits and with serious operational issues. The once highly-regarded escrow manager and title-insurance broker closed its doors late last year. According to a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Northern California, it has $515,000 in assets to satisfy nearly $100 million in liabilities, most of them based on claims from one-time employees, landlords, customers and bankers,
Another Title Company Quits Modesto and Stanislaus County
Another Modesto title insurance office is closing, continuing the escrow industry's exodus from Stanislaus County. The North American Title Co. will shut its last Modesto office July 18. It previously had closed its Turlock office. Two weeks ago, Fidelity National Title Insurance closed its Modesto office, laying off some employees and merging the rest with a pared-down staff from Chicago Title. Fidelity's Oakdale office was taken over by Chicago Title.
Charges at Bear Stearns Linked to Subprime Debacle
Two former Bear Stearns managers were arrested Thursday on securities fraud and other charges linked to the collapse of a hedge fund that bet heavily on subprime mortgages before the market collapsed, federal authorities said. This Story Matthew Tannin was taken into custody outside his New Jersey home on Thursday morning and Ralph Cioffi was arrested at his New York City home, the FBI said.
Opting Out of Title Insurance
When attorney Mark Rutzick sold his home in Fairfax, Va., and bought a new one in nearby Oakton, he made what many might consider a risky move: He turned down title insurance. While lenders require borrowers to pay for the insurance that protects loans against unexpected liens and other claims, owners often have more leeway when it comes to insuring their own home equity.
Lawyer to Sort Out Flagler Title's Finances; $2.5 Million, Owner Missing
With its founder and at least $2.5 million missing, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge this week placed Flagler Title Co., one of the oldest locally owned title insurers, under the control of an outside lawyer who will sort out the company's finances.
Brace for Other Shoe to Drop in Mortgage Mess, Some Warn
With most of the country still reeling from the subprime mortgage meltdown, Mark Hanson is warning of the next looming blow. Hanson, a bank consultant and former mortgage broker from the Bay Area who writes a blog under the name "Mr. Mortgage," is among a handful of industry soothsayers who expect another big wave of foreclosures to hit sometime around 2010, driven by defaults among people holding less risky loans known as "alternative-A."
Realtors Challenge HUD’s RESPA Reform
The National Association of Realtors® has asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to amend its proposed changes to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. In a comment letter, NAR expressed concern and dissatisfaction with HUD’s proposed reforms and asked the agency to simplify the procedure and improve the disclosure requirements for mortgage settlement costs.
Housing Woes Hit Community Banks
Home-mortgage specialists may have been the first lenders to suffer for their roles in financing the housing bubble. But, as foreclosures rise and home prices fall, many smaller banks and thrifts that backed residential developers and home builders are watching black ink turn red and are spending uncomfortable amounts of time with regulators.
FTC Staff Files Comments with HUD on Proposed Amendments to RESPA Regulations
The Federal Trade Commission has authorized its staff to file comments with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) concerning proposed amendments to regulations implementing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).
Mortgage Loans Just Got Harder to Get
In recent weeks, mortgages quietly became harder to get. Mortgage insurers require higher credit scores and bigger down payments than they did a month or two ago. Underwriting software used by brokers and loan officers is issuing fewer approvals than at the end of May.
FHA is Waiting to Give You a Loan
Approaching the end of a fellowship in sports medicine and the start of his career at the University of Washington, Dr. Ashwin Rao recently decided to buy his first home. But he didn't have much money saved up for a down payment. "I wanted to start building some equity," the 31-year-old said last week. "This is my first permanent job where I'm not planning on moving in the next few years."
Gas Boom Spawns Land Rush
Forget a lake-front view or a quaint old farmhouse. The new phrase on nearly every potential landowner's lips in Wayne, Wyoming and Susquehanna counties is "Marcellus Shale." Potential property buyers want to purchase land in the three counties in the hopes of signing lucrative leases with one of the many natural gas drilling companies scouring the region.
Chill Creeping Into Home-equity Lines of Credit
Homeowners have been getting their home-equity lines of credit frozen or pared down by lenders trying to cut risks. It happened to dentist Michael Sherman, who can't touch his $100,000 credit line for bathroom renovations because he has little equity in his home, and to homeowner Suzanne Dzolan, whose $200,000 limit was halved soon after she paid what she used to redo the house.
Average Price Rose in Baltimore Area
Local home sales continued their plunge in May, dropping 30 percent from a year earlier as the average price ticked up modestly. It was the ninth straight month that sales fell at least 30 percent in the Baltimore metropolitan area, a downward acceleration kicked off by sharp tightening by lenders. About 2,100 homes changed hands - half as many as in May 2005, near the peak of the housing boom, according to new data from Rockville-based Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.
A Cold Market for Jumbo Loans Shows Signs of a Thaw
When the federal government enacted rules in February to help borrowers get big mortgages, Rick Garcia hoped he'd finally be able to refinance his West Hills home. The 35-year-old veterinarian started looking for a new mortgage six months ago but says he hasn't been able to find an affordable one.
Tight Credit Won't Slam Home Values
Rising defaults and foreclosures and an oversupply of homes are more likely to stunt a real-estate recovery than tighter mortgage standards, lenders say. "I think improvement [in the real-estate market] can occur while standards are still this tight," says Brian Kludt, a senior mortgage planner at Waterstone Mortgage in suburban Milwaukee. "Standards are one of a plethora of factors impacting the housing market."
SEC Proposing New Rules for Credit Raters
Federal regulators are proposing new rules to stem conflicts of interest and enhance disclosure for Wall Street's credit rating industry, a major financial player that has been widely criticized for failing to identify risks in subprime mortgage investments.
Many Opt for FHA Loans This Quarter
For the past few months, nearly every loan that Laura Triplett has closed for customers at SunTrust Mortgage has been backed by the Federal Housing Administration."I've got another 20 people closing in June, and most of them got FHA loans, too," said Triplett, a branch manager at the bank's Woodbridge, Va., office. "I don't know what we'd be doing without FHA."
How HUD Mortgage Policy Fed The Crisis
In 2004, as regulators warned that subprime lenders were saddling borrowers with mortgages they could not afford, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helped fuel more of that risky lending. Eager to put more low-income and minority families into their own homes, the agency required that two government-chartered mortgage finance firms purchase far more "affordable" loans made to these borrowers. HUD stuck with an outdated policy that allowed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to count billions of dollars they invested in subprime loans as a public good that would foster affordable housing.
Pending Resales of U.S. Houses Probably Decreased in April
Fewer Americans probably signed contracts to buy previously owned homes in April, the fifth decline in six months, signaling no end to the housing slump, economists said before a private report today.
Consumers Face Tougher Time Getting Loans as Bank Crisis Spreads
The credit crisis triggered by bad home loans is spreading to other areas, forcing banks to tighten credit and probably extending the credit crisis that's dragging down the economy well into next year, and perhaps beyond. That means consumers are going to have an increasingly difficult time getting bank loans for car purchases, credit cards, home equity credit lines, student loans and even commercial real estate, experts say.
Washington Report: Mortgage Crisis Relief Bill
It's Capitol Hill's biggest real estate issue at the moment and it's either headed for final action in the next three weeks, or it could go down in flames for the year. Senate and House negotiators have been working for weeks to put together a massive mortgage crisis relief bill.
Bank of America is Firm on Countrywide Buyout
IN the six months since Bank of America announced its plans to take over Countrywide Financial, many investors have doubted that the $4 billion deal for the hobbled mortgage lender would get done. Bank of America has been strangely silent about its plans for merging the two operations, with the exception of a cryptic regulatory filing last month warning that investors should not count on it assuming all of Countrywide’s debt.
Another Bank, First Tenn, Exits Mammoth Mortgage Business
The nation's housing-market meltdown has pushed yet another regional bank to cut and run from its mammoth mortgage-writing business. First Tennessee Bank National Association, a unit of First Horizon National Corp. (FHN), announced on Wednesday it will sell its retail and wholesale mortgage lending operations - including more than 230 offices outside of Tennessee - to MetLife Inc. (MET).
Morgan Stanley, Merrill, Lehman Ratings Cut by S&P
Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. declined in New York trading after Standard & Poor's lowered credit ratings for the investment banks, saying they may have to book more writedowns on devalued assets. Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest U.S. securities firm by market value, was cut one level to A+ from AA-, S&P said today in a report. Merrill Lynch, the third-biggest, was also cut one level to A from A+, as was Lehman Brothers, the fourth-biggest. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the largest of the group, was affirmed at AA-. The outlook on all four New York-based companies remains negative, S&P said.
The Role of FICO Scores in the Credit Mess
Just as Moody's and Standard & Poor's are on the griddle because of their failure to spot trouble in the mortgage-backed securities market, so is Fair Isaac Corp. (FIC $24) feeling some heat for the inability of its credit score to predict defaults. Although the company maintains that its scores fulfilled expectations, some in the mortgage industry say the scores proved unreliable.
Las Vegas Called 'Mortgage Fraud Ground Zero'
In the shadow of Sunrise Mountain, where Rolling Hills Drive turns into Gold Mine Drive, a plain two-story home sits unoccupied, like thousands of other houses here in southern Nevada. Some of these empty homes have "for sale" signs. Others bear signs saying "foreclosure." Authorities say hundreds of them, including this one on Rolling Hills Drive, should have a different sign out front, one that reads "fraud."
Mortgage Turmoil Results in Changes
Less than a month after losing his chairman post, Ken Thompson is out as Wachovia Corp.'s chief executive officer as the Charlotte bank wrestles with mounting losses from its troubled Golden West Financial Corp. acquisition and ongoing investor unrest.
Mortgage Defaults Hit Military Especially Hard
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey VerSteegh, who repairs F-16 jets for the 132nd Fighter Wing, left Des Moines, Iowa, in April for his third tour of duty in Iraq. The father of four may lose his home when he returns.The four-bedroom farmhouse that he and his wife, Kathleen, own near the Iowa State Fairgrounds went into default in December after their monthly mortgage costs doubled to $1,100. Kathleen missed work because of breast cancer, and they struggled to keep up the house payment, falling behind on other bills. Their bankruptcy was approved by the court a week after VerSteegh left for Iraq.
Bad Credit Data? Lenders Might Have to Alert You Under Federal Plan
When you're quoted a higher interest rate than you deserve because of erroneous data in your credit file, wouldn't you like someone to red-flag it for you?
IN Mortgage Meltdown, 'walkaway' Homeowners May Be Suburban Myth
Bankers and housing analysts say many homeowners, owing more than their homes are worth, are defaulting on their loans even when they can afford payments. But no hard numbers back up their claims. Bankers and housing analysts say many homeowners, owing more than their homes are worth, are defaulting on their loans even when they can afford payments. But no hard numbers back up their claims.
Closing Costs All Over The Map, Study Finds
Anew study finds that closing costs on home loans vary widely and that African Americans, Latinos and people in neighborhoods with fewer college graduates tend to pay more. So do people who got their loans through mortgage brokers instead of directly from a bank or thrift.
Homeowners Find Big Problem in 'Solutions'
Millicent Antun was in trouble. Then she heard the radio ad: A company called 4 Solutions was offering a way out."Stop foreclosure!" the person said. "4 Solutions is your answer!"
Sec to Propose New Rules for Financial Instruments
The staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to propose rules for credit-ratings companies that would require risk rankings for complex financial instruments -- a move opposed by rating entities, investment banks and others.
Much of City Appears Headed for Flood Zone A, Requiring Flood Insurance.
Many City residents apparently will have their flood zone designation changed, which could mean they must purchase flood insurance. A recent site visit by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to the levee on the east side of the Walker River between Bridge Street and Goldfield Avenue resulted in that levee being decertified, and little chance for a quick re-certification.
New Overdue Home Loans Swamp Effort to Fix Mortgages in Default
Newly delinquent mortgage borrowers outnumbered people who caught up on their overdue payments by two to one last month, a sign that nationwide efforts to help homeowners avoid default may be failing.
State Closes Title Company
A real estate title company in Severna Park and Ocean City was shut down after as much as $2 million from its escrow account for property settlements allegedly turned up missing, according to court documents and state regulators.
Housing Crisis Legislation Likely
Housing legislation Congress is expected to pass in the coming weeks includes something for everyone caught up in the current crisis - struggling homeowners about to be foreclosed, lenders holding bad loans and builders and real estate agents facing skittish buyers. But even those pushing hard for federal intervention are not sure how much relief the legislation would provide and how quickly it would help.
Industry's Woes Trickle Down to Regional Banks
Regional bank stocks aren't the haven that investors hoped they would be -- as shares of Cleveland-based KeyCorp demonstrated Wednesday. KeyCorp stunned investors late Tuesday by warning that loan losses would surge this year. Its shares plunged $2.29, or 10.4%, to $19.66 on Wednesday, their lowest since 2000.
Banks Miss an Easy Housing Fix
Lenders say they want to help troubled homeowners, but they are delaying deals that could save everyone - including the lenders themselves - a lot of time and money.
Loan Crisis May Cut Affordable Housing
The Woodstock Institute, cruncher of foreclosure numbers in the Chicago area, has provided a glimpse at how the mortgage lending crisis is hitting renters. When a lender forecloses on a landlord, buildings often fall into disrepair. The renters often don't know what's going on until the utilities get shut off or they are served with eviction notices.
U.S. Economy: Consumer Confidence Slides as Home Values Decline
Confidence among American consumers fell in May to the lowest level since 1992 as the two-year housing slump showed no sign of bottoming. The Conference Board's confidence index declined more than forecast to 57.2, the New York-based research group said today. The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index dropped 14.4 percent in March from a year earlier, the most since the figures were first published in 2001. Separate figures from the Commerce Department showed sales of new homes were the second-lowest since 1991 in April.
Lawsuits Against Lenders Accelerate Amid U.S. Housing Crisis
The U.S. housing crisis has caused huge loan losses at big lenders but also spawned a slew of class-action lawsuits against them, many alleging noncompliance with consumer disclosure rules. "The compliance issue is a ticking time bomb for some lenders," said Louis Pizante, chief executive of Mavent Inc., an Irvine, California-based company that provides automated regulatory compliance reports for financial clients. "We have only just seen the beginning of the lawsuits."
S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. Home-Price Index Falls 14.4%
Home prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas fell in March by the most in at least seven years, pointing to continued weakness in the housing market that will further drag on the economy. The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index dropped 14.4 percent from a year earlier, more than forecast and the most since the figures were first published in 2001. The gauge has fallen every month since January 2007.
All Markets Now Equal in Eyes of Fannie Mae
Could the controversial mortgage industry practice of listing hundreds of local real estate markets as declining - and restricting lending through higher down payments or credit scores - be scrapped? The two biggest players in the home mortgage field, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, did precisely that May 16. Reversing its policy of penalizing buyers in troubled real estate markets with 5 percent higher down payments, Fannie switched to a nationally uniform policy of charging borrowers the same minimum down payments irrespective of location.
Crunch Turns Back Clock on Mortgage Lending
As U.S. banks mop up the mess from billions of dollars of bad home loans, buyers are finding the days of cheap money are over and, in many cases, tougher versions of old lending rules now apply. People of modest means have seen the American dream of home ownership move further out of reach. Even affluent buyers, who took advantage the last decade's low interest rates and looser lending standards to move up to more expensive homes or to buy investment properties, are seeing their options evaporate.
Senate Bill Would Cut Size of Fannie, Freddie Loans
A Senate bill intended to revive the U.S. housing market could make borrowing for a home more expensive in high-priced markets such as California and New York. If the bill passes, the limit on the size of loans that can be purchased by government-sponsored mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will drop to $550,000; during 2008, the limit on those purchases was set at nearly $730,000.
Calif. Congresswoman Loses House in Foreclosure
The credit crunch is hitting the halls of Congress, with reports from California that a member of the House lost her house in foreclosure earlier this month.
New Mortgage Company May Open with Former Delta Staff
The former senior management of bankrupt lender Delta Financial Corp. is launching a new mortgage company that may open retail offices - and some employees might even be sitting at their old Delta desks. Reliance First Capital Llc will be based in Woodbury for the next six months or so as a small staff works on start-up initiatives, such as getting state banking licenses, former Delta chief executive Hugh Miller wrote in a May 8 posting on dfcconnect.com, a Web site for his one-time employees.
Freddie Mac CFO Says GSEs Are Gaining Market Share and Raising Prices Amid Shakeout
Freddie Mac expects the shakeout in the mortgage industry to fuel substantial growth and a return to profitability for government-sponsored mortgage financiers, the company's chief financial officer said in a presentation Tuesday.Buddy Piszel, in a speech at a financial services conference in London, said Freddie Mac expects 15 percent to 20 percent revenue growth this year.
Fannie Mae CEO: Home Prices Will Keep Falling
Fannie Mae's CEO told shareholders Tuesday that the housing market is "about halfway through" its crisis and home prices could fall as much as 25% before the worst is over.
Senators Reach Deal on Foreclosure Legislation
Key senators announced Monday a bipartisan agreement on the broad elements of a plan to avoid foreclosures and speed the refinancing of mortgages for roughly 500,000 troubled homeowners without taxpayers footing the bill. The deal, full details of which were not spelled out, reflects the election-year pressure that lawmakers feel to find common ground on one of the most pressing issues facing the country. The housing collapse has inflicted pain on thousands of families, dealt the economy a major blow and ignited a fierce controversy over what -- if anything -- the government should do about it.
Fannie Mae Cuts Mortgage Down Payments
Fannie Mae said Friday it is lowering the amount of down payments required on mortgages it purchases, even in areas where home prices are falling. Starting June 1, the new requirements of 3% or 5% will apply nationally to loans on single-family primary residences, it said.
Guidance on Mortgage Loan Modifications
The Internal Revenue Service has released a revenue procedure dealing with the tax effects on securitized mortgages that have been modified to avoid foreclosures. Revenue Procedure 2008-28 describes conditions under which modifications of certain mortgage loans will not cause the IRS to either challenge the tax status of some types of securitization vehicles that hold the loans or to assert that the modifications create a liability for tax on a prohibited transaction. However, the IRS cautioned that no inferences should be drawn about whether there would be similar consequences when a loan modification falls outside the scope of the revenue procedure.
FHA to Shift to Insurance Based on Risk
Who have better credit scores on average - home buyers with higher or lower incomes? Inside the country's fastest-growing home mortgage program, the surprising answer is: People with lower incomes have slightly higher FICO scores. That finding, which emerged from a statistical analysis of all approved mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration during fiscal 2007, is now buttressing a forthcoming major policy switch that could affect thousands of buyers and refinancers.
Title Data Settles Complaint
The state attorney general has reached a settlement with Houston-based Title Data, following a three-year investigation of complaints alleging anti-competitive behavior. Title Data, which is owned by a consortium of large title companies, runs a "title plant," a database of property records that title insurance agents use to research property histories.
Need a New Mortgage? Call Uncle Sam
The Bush administration says it has the answer to the housing crisis: a program offering cheaper loans. It has helped many people, but critics say it's not enough.
Pending Legislation May Impact Pennsylvania Default Attorneys/Lenders
Pending Legislation May Impact Pennsylvania Default Attorneys/Lenders Kerri Panchuk | 05.16.08 A Philadelphia attorney says a piece of legislation that made it through the state House in April could significantly impact the way servicers and lenders do business in Pennsylvania. Michael McKeever, with the law firm of Goldbeck, McCafferty & McKeever, issued an advisory to inform attorneys and lenders about some of the changes that would result if a series of five house bills make it into law—specifically House Bill (H.B.) 1083.
Mortgage in Trouble? How Congress Wants to Help
Should Uncle Sam insure mortgages? That's the big debate. But the devil is in the details and nobody is talking about them. Here's how the plan would work.
Land Owners Trapped in Document Runaround
Imagine buying the lot for your dream home and afterward being informed by the Arizona Department of Real Estate that you can’t use, build on or sell your lot. You discover this delayed action was because ADRE didn’t inspect an administrative report submitted years before, and didn’t record the report or any findings of the reports’ compliance (or noncompliance). Years later, after numerous sales of the property, ADRE tells you there was a mistake in the report and you cannot use, build on or sell your property. This happened in Maricopa County.
Housing Market Primed for Mortgage Fraud
Subprime loans, which dramatically increased after 2003, are a considerable factor influencing mortgage fraud due to their higher failure rate, according to the FBI's 2007 mortgage fraud report.
Boca Firm Audited After Scam
Florida's largest title insurer launched an audit last week of a Boca Raton title agency's transactions. Fortune Title Services LLC closed a number of deals now at the heart of an alleged mortgage fraud scheme that has generated multiple federal indictments.
Housing Rescue Stokes Partisan Split
GOP pushes back against Dodd bill to expand government role in helping at-risk borrowers and tighten control over big mortgage players.
Housing Rescue Stokes Partisan Split
GOP pushes back against Dodd bill to expand government role in helping at-risk borrowers and tighten control over big mortgage players.
Colorado Back on Top-10 List for Mortgage Fraud
Colorado is back on a top-10 list it never wanted to be on. The FBI ranked Colorado No. 9 as a mortgage fraud "hot spot" in 2007. In 2006, Colorado was off the top-10 list after being on it in 2004 and 2005. Two years ago, Colorado was ranked by the FBI as one of nine states "significantly affected by mortgage fraud." An FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C., said he did not have details of the number or types of cases involving mortgage fraud in Colorado.
Bernanke Says Fed to Boost Loans to Banks as Needed
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said financial markets remain unsettled and the central bank will increase its auctions of cash to banks as needed.
Senate Talks Collapse On a Housing Bill
Hope dimmed yesterday that Congress would act quickly to rescue homeowners at risk of foreclosure after key Republican and Democratic negotiators in the Senate said they could not reach agreement on a plan.Talks broke down late Friday between aides to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and the senior Republican on his committee, Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), aides said. The two camps had been trying for more than a month to develop a bipartisan proposal to ease the nation's housing crisis.
Economic Projections for 2008 Look Dim
Cal State Fullerton economists Anil Puri and Mira Farka have made revisions to the 2008 economic forecast, predicting job losses locally in Orange County and throughout the nation. Some of the important topics addressed included the declining labor market, the mortgage industry and inflation.
Fight Looms Over Proposed Home-appraisal Rules
A major legal brawl is breaking out over how homes are appraised, at what cost and by whom. The outcome could directly affect the price you pay for your next piece of real estate and the amount of mortgage money you can obtain.
Turning Up the Heat on Fannie Mae
The ongoing mortgage-default tornado hit Fannie Mae with ferocity last week, when the mortgage giant reported a first-quarter loss of $2.2 billion, its third quarterly loss in a row. Rising credit costs -- industry lingo for foreclosure costs and reserves against future loan charge-offs -- was the primary culprit. Nor did management sound many cheery notes in the news release or conference call afterwards. They boosted the expected range of home price declines for 2008, to 7% to 9% from 5% to 7%. Therefore mortgage defaults will be even higher next year.
eMortgages Find Way Home After Subprime Fiasco
The number of electronic mortgages has increased dramatically in recent months, and two Houston companies are among a handful of firms nationwide poised to capitalize on the trend. Harry Gardner, vice president of technology for the Mortgage Bankers Association, says although the number of eMortgages is skyrocketing, there are only a few companies providing such services. Two Houston companies -- Encomia and Stewart Information Services Corp. -- are among those firms.
FACTBOX: What Has The U.s. Gov't Done to Fix Housing Crisis?
The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Thursday voted to authorize the government to finance distressed mortgages to steer 500,000 American homeowners away from foreclosure. It was unclear whether Democrats in the Senate could muster enough support to pass a similar version of the bill, which President George W. Bush has threatened to veto.
Mortgage Crisis Seeps to Prime Loans
The first concrete evidence that delinquencies on mortgage bills have spread well beyond those with subpar credit shows that even prime borrowers have increasingly fallen behind on their house payments. The figures remain relatively small so far. But if they rise further, delinquencies on prime loans — given only to those with good credit — could prolong the housing crisis.
The New Mortgage Rate Calculus
Borrower, beware: The current credit crisis will transform how homes are financed - and who bears the risk. With foreclosures projected to reach 2 million nationwide by the end of next year, bankers are rethinking how they set mortgage rates.
Home-buyer-friendly Policies Help Out in S.c.
South Carolina doesn't often set economic trends, which helps explain why local foreclosure rates remained fairly steady last year while national headlines called attention to dramatically rising rates elsewhere. But state regulations played a role in the trend, too, according to Charleston County Master-in-Equity Judge Mikell Scarborough, whose office handles foreclosure cases.
March Pending Sales Down 20% Over Year Ago
The National Association of Realtors' national pending-sale index, based on agreements of sale signed for existing homes during a month, fell 20.1 percent in March from the same month in 2007. The February-to-March decline was just 1.0 percent, the NAR said today. The Philadelphia region saw a 20.2 percent decline in its pending-sale index in March over 2007 and a 4.6 percent drop from February to March, according to Prudential Fox & Roach's HomExpert report, which is based on data from Trend Multiple Listing Service.
Fannie Offers Dismal Housing Outlook
Mortgage financer Fannie Mae warned Tuesday that the tumbling home values and loan defaults that have crippled the U.S. economy are likely to worsen, after posting a far larger-than-expected first-quarter loss. The firm said it now forecasts that home prices will sink 7% to 9% this year, 2 percentage points worse than its previous decline range forecast, a drop that could leave prices 19% off of peak levels. Fannie also increased its reserves to cover bad loans it has backed by nearly $2 billion, and said it expects a worse outlook for credit losses in 2009 than it is seeing this year.
Fannie Posts Loss, to Cut Payout, Raise Capita
Fannie Mae, the largest provider of U.S. home financing, on Tuesday posted its third straight quarterly loss as the U.S. housing crisis took another turn for the worse during the first quarter of 2008. The federally chartered company also said it would cut its common stock dividend to preserve cash and raise $6 billion in new capital as it sees significant credit losses stretching into 2009.
Bernanke: Foreclosure Woes Require Action
The wave of foreclosures sweeping the nation are driven in part by a nearly unprecedented decline in home prices and require a concerted government and private-sector response, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Monday."Realistic public- and private-sector policies must take into account the fact that traditional foreclosure avoidance strategies may not always work well in the current environment," Bernanke said .
Rep. Frank Wants Answers on Jumbo Loan Inaction
A key House lawmaker on Monday complained that the mortgage industry has done little over the past month to make higher-value loans available in costly housing markets after Congress took steps to try to infuse more cash into the so-called jumbo market. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Monday that the House Financial Services Committee that he chairs will hold a May 21 hearing to try to find out why so-called jumbo mortgages remain difficult to get and continue to carry high interest rates, despite new rules that took effect April 1.
Title Industry Titans Feel the Pain of Housing, Mortgage Downturn
The mortgage mess hit the balance sheets of three large title insurance providers this week, showing that the real estate mess has yet to work its way through the system. Stewart Information Services Corporation, LandAmerica Financial Group, Inc. and The First American Corporation all said this week that the market downturn pushed revenues and income lower during the first quarter — with two of the title companies posting net losses for Q1.
HUD Solicits Comment on Proposed Changes to Real Estate Settlement Act
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has plans to reform the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Included in the proposal are changes that consumers will notice in the forms they receive when buying a house or applying for mortgage financing on a home purchase. Among other things, the proposed HUD rule change would revise and standardize the Good Faith Estimate form and also modify the HUD-1 Uniform Settlement Statement, which homebuyers receive prior to closing so they have a detailed list of charges and fees to expect. The HUD-1 is standard form that clearly shows all charges imposed on borrowers and sellers in connection with the settlement. HUD recommends that those with comments submit them electronically by My 13th y visiting the federal e-rulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. Background information on RESPA is available online at http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/res/respa_hm.cfm.
Tight Credit Hitting Specialized Areas of Mortgage Market
The latest to feel the pinch: -- Cash-out refinancings. -- Loans with anything less than full documentation of borrower income, credit and assets. -- Mortgages for certain second-home purchases. -- Investment loan applications where the buyer already owns at least three other rental properties. -- Short-term construction loans that convert to permanent mortgages.-- Adjustable-rate mortgages where the first rate adjustment occurs within 60 months after closing.
More Big Losses Expected From Fannie, Freddie
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reeling from the deterioration in the housing market, will likely post steep losses for the first quarter, but the two largest home funding companies are expected to escape previous record losses. Slumping house prices and rising foreclosures, even for high-quality loans that comprise the bulk of business at the two federally chartered companies, have eroded their income. Losses were likely tempered, however, after the two raised their fees and as the credit crunch drove many of their rivals to the sidelines. The first quarter, however, held no relief for housing.
Home Sales Slowest in 5 Years
Mike and A. Lukeck put their Las Cruces house on the market two weeks ago and have already attracted potential buyers. "We have a lot of interest," Mrs. Lukeck said. The couple have had the Coues Deer Avenue house on the market once before and have lowered the price. "We're hoping that will bring some extra attention. I'm pleased with the amount of calls."
Hidden Mortgage Risks Abound in U.S. Home Market
Bottoms up! It's time to swallow a heavy dose of risk realism when considering the U.S. home market. While it's a given that home prices will continue to fall in most major markets in the immediate future, you have to defy the conventional wisdom on what will happen next.
Investors Move in to Save Broken Mortgages
Jared Lanning, struggling to pay a home loan on which he owed more than his house was worth, was thinking he might just let the lender take back the property. Then he got a call one evening from an Orange County investor who had bought his mortgage. "I want out of your loan," said the investor, Evan Gentry, chief executive of G8 Capital of Ladera Ranch, who offered to lower the balance and the interest rate.
Mortgage Sector Sees Harmful Mandate
A mandate to split the U.S. home loan and home appraisal industries would needlessly damage those sectors and endanger the two largest U.S. sources of mortgage finance, appraisal and lending trade groups said on Wednesday. The plan in question calls for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only to finance home loans from lenders that have put their appraisers at arm's length.
FDIC Chief Backs Treasury Loans to Spur Refinancing
A key federal regulator released a proposal to address the mortgage crisis Wednesday, calling on the Treasury Department to help troubled borrowers by lending them 20% of their mortgage principal to spur refinancing into more affordable loans. Chairwoman Sheila C. Bair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said she was prompted to offer the plan in part by meeting worried borrowers at a housing forum in Los Angeles last week. The crowd of "anxious people" overfilled the auditorium and stretched down the block, she said. "I didn't see a lot of loan flippers or condo speculators," Bair told reporters.
The Housing Crisis and the Future of the U.S. Economy
The U.S. economy may be at a turning point: as manufacturing jobs are being shipped overseas, the financial system is experiencing tremendous hardship, largely of its own making. The spread of economic woes caused by the subprime mortgage crisis highlights the failures of national ratings and regulatory systems as well as the dangers posed by companies passing along risks associated with questionable investments and borrowing excessively. The current situation illustrates the need for an increase in the government’s fiscal responsibility and a reevaluation of the federal regulatory bodies that oversee lending practices.
Mortgage defaults up a staggering 37 per cent
Defaults on privately insured U.S. mortgages rose 37 per cent in March from a year earlier for their 15th straight increase, according to an industry report released yesterday. The number of insured borrowers more than 60 days late on payments rose to 58,131 last month from 42,362 a year earlier, the Washington-based Mortgage Insurance Cos. of America said. Mortgage insurers pay lenders when homeowners default and foreclosures fail to cover costs.
Fed Trims Rate to 2%, Signals Ready to Consider Pause
The Federal Reserve lowered the main U.S. interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 2 percent and indicated it's ready to take a break after seven cuts since September.
2010 is Predicted Date for Housing Recovery
2010 is predicted date for housing recovery Baltimore Sun | Apr 30 2008The head of mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae said yesterday that he doesn't expect to see "some recovery and growth" in the housing market until 2010. "We think at Fannie Mae that '08 is going to be a tough year, kind of a continuation of the end of 2007; '09 will be similar," said Daniel Mudd, the company's president and chief executive, who spoke at a business journalism conference in Baltimore. http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.housing30apr30,0,2147791.story The head of mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae said yesterday that he doesn't expect to see "some recovery and growth" in the housing market until 2010. "We think at Fannie Mae that '08 is going to be a tough year, kind of a continuation of the end of 2007; '09 will be similar," said Daniel Mudd, the company's president and chief executive, who spoke at a business journalism conference in Baltimore.
The Road to a Jumbo Mortgage Was Supposed to Get Easier
In early February, Congress gave beleaguered mortgage borrowers a rare cause for celebration. As part of the economic stimulus package, it passed rules intended to make it easier and less expensive for people to take out hefty loans in the nation’s costliest housing markets. Economists and legislators said that helping tens of thousands of borrowers take out billions of dollars in new loans could stanch the bleeding in the housing market, spur spending and reduce the pain of a likely recession.
Countrywide, GMAC Losses Underline U.S. Housing Slump
Countrywide Financial Corp. and GMAC LLC, two of the nation's biggest home lenders, lost a combined $1.5 billion in the first quarter, adding to evidence that the housing slump has deepened. Countrywide, the mortgage lender that Bank of America Corp. plans to buy, posted a loss of $893 million, or $1.60 a share, as late payments and home foreclosures escalated. GMAC, which General Motors Corp. sold last year, recorded a $589 million loss, due largely to its mortgage unit.
Homes Facing Foreclosure More than Doubled in 1q From 2007
The number of U.S. homes heading toward foreclosure more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, as weakening property values and tighter lending left many homeowners powerless to prevent homes from being auctioned to the highest bidder, a research firm said Monday. Among the hardest hit states were Nevada, Florida and, in particular, California, where Stockton led the nation with a foreclosure rate that was 6.6 times the national average, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.
Weak 0.6% Economic Growth in Q1 is Better than Forecast
The bruised economy limped through the first quarter this year with growth at a 0.6% annual pace as housing and credit problems forced people and businesses to hunker down. The country's economic growth rate January through March was the same as the final three months last year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday in its first estimate of first-quarter gross domestic product. This means although economy is stuck in a rut, it is managing to grow — however modestly.
Housing-aid Bill Eyed for Vote Thursday
Members of the House Financial Services Committee went back to work Wednesday on a multibillion-dollar bill that is intended to help stem the foreclosure crisis. The legislation would allow the Federal Housing Administration to back as much as $300 billion in refinanced loans for homeowners facing foreclosure. Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said that he expects a vote on the bill Thursday. Frank and other supporters say that it will help homeowners and bolster neighborhoods, but critics contend that it would put taxpayers at risk and help lenders more than borrowers.
A Free-Market Approach to Housing Crisis
Home-value depreciation has led a growing number of Arizonans to walk away from their homes rather than make monthly mortgage payments. This is yet another facet of the crisis rocking the housing market and reverberating throughout the American economy. Congress is looking for ways to help, but the costly, big-government solutions being discussed are worse than the problem.
Bank of America to Modify Home Loans
Bank of America Corp said on Monday that, as part of its acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corp, it expects to modify at least $40 billion in mortgage loans to help homeowners. The second-largest U.S. bank unveiled its plan at a public hearing on the $4 billion merger at the Federal Reserve Bank in Los Angeles, near where Countrywide is based.
State Senate OKs Foreclosure Bill
A bill aimed at putting the brakes on home foreclosures in California was approved Monday by the state Senate, ending a months-long partisan stalemate. Under the legislation, a lender would have to try at least three times to contact a borrower in person or by telephone 30 days before sending a notice of default. When contact is made, the lender would assess the borrower's financial situation and discuss options to avoid default.
Bank of America to Pledge Mortgage Aid
Pushing to fast-track its takeover of wounded home-loan goliath Countrywide Financial Corp., Bank of America Corp. will promise today to help 265,000 troubled borrowers keep their homes over the next two years by refinancing or modifying at least $40 billion in mortgages.
Americas Watchdog Wants To Talk To Every New Homeowners
Americas Watchdog along with its National Mortgage Complaint Center have just launched a national investigation into US home builders offering home buyers mortgage services, and title insurance. The focus of the examination is where homeowners over charged on either the mortgage, or the title insurance? Americas Watchdog's National Mortgage Complaint Center is one of the leading homeowners advocates in the United States.
Loan Industry Fighting Rules on Mortgages
The mortgage industry, facing the prospect of tougher regulations for its central role in the housing crisis, has begun an intensive campaign to fight back. As the Federal Reserve completes work on rules to root out abuses by lenders, its plan has run into a buzz saw of criticism from bankers, mortgage brokers and other parts of the housing industry. One common industry criticism is that at a time of tight credit, tighter rules could make many mortgages more expensive by creating more paperwork and potentially exposing lenders to more lawsuits.
Mortgage Crisis Expands to Prime Borrowers in N.h.
New Hampshire housing advocates say they've noticed troubling signs that the mortgage crisis is spreading to prime borrowers. Most of the foreclosures in New Hampshire stem from subprime mortgages made to borrowers who don't qualify for traditional loans, usually because of bad credit or low income. But the director of one counseling agency says he's seen an alarming increase in calls from homeowners seeking help not because of adjustable-rate subprime loans, but because loss of income is making it difficult to keep up with their payments.
Presidential Candidates Call for Government to Rescue Homeowners
The presidential candidates' aggressive plans for government to rescue homeowners are drawing more attention in Texas as home sales plummet and more borrowers default on loans. Hillary Rodham Clinton would commit the most money, but her plan to stem foreclosures no longer looks very different from ideas pitched by fellow Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. All three embrace a bigger role for the federal government, which would guarantee hundreds of thousands of shaky mortgages.
The Rating Agencies
In the New York Times magazine today, Roger Lowenstein takes a look at the role of rating agencies in our current credit crisis. Were they at fault because they got in bed with their customers and overrated complex new mortgage-backed securities? Or were they innocent bystanders in a world gone mad? Proposition A gets an airing early on. Lowenstein explains that after the sudden collapse of Penn Central in 1970, new rules were put in place that effectively barred large classes of investors from buying anything other than investment grade bonds. And it was the rating agencies that decided which bonds were investment grade and which ones weren't.
Buyers Hurt By Misguided Designations of Risk Areas
Could widespread designations of entire ZIP codes, metropolitan areas - even entire states - as "declining markets," hinder a real estate recovery and hurt minority groups and moderate-income buyers disproportionately? Growing ranks of critics say the answer is yes. Since late 2007, most lenders, insurers and mortgage investment firms have compiled lists of local markets that they consider to be posing higher risks because housing values are dropping. Within those areas, borrowers are charged higher rates, loan fees and down payments - costs that can rise significantly when applicants have credit scores below designated minimum levels.
Fed's Online Mortgage Maps Show Where Problems Are
The Federal Reserve has made available a new set of online interactive maps designed to provide a clearer, more localized view of where problem mortgages are. The maps, maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, will be updated monthly. They provide a local look at conditions for the two categories of mortgage loans that are most in distress: subprime and alt-A mortgage loans. See » (http://www.newyorkfed.org/mortgagemaps/ )
Freddie, Fannie Take on Big Loans, Risk
Freddie Mac(FRE - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) has entered the market for jumbo loans, or loans of more than $417,000. That could be good news for some borrowers, but also means U.S. taxpayers are taking on additional risk. Freddie announced last week that it expects to finance between $10 billion and $15 billion of jumbo loans this year. Some borrowers won't even need the 20% down payment -- the mortgages can be used to finance up to 90% of a property's value.
in Housing Market, It's The Worst of Times and Best of Times
Home sellers, brace for some grim news. The spring home-buying season now underway is widely expected to be the worst since the 1980s. Many would-be buyers lack strong enough credit to get a mortgage. Home values are sinking. And in front yards around the country, "For Sale" signs are as ubiquitous as garden weeds.
Homeowners Convert to Costlier Fixed-Rate Loans Amid ARM Fears
Mortgage refinancing in the U.S. is increasing as record numbers of homeowners dump their adjustable-rate mortgages for the security of a fixed loan. The amount of refinanced home loans will reach $321 billion by the end of June, the most in a year, according to estimates from Washington-based Fannie Mae, the largest buyer of mortgages. Nine out of 10 of those borrowers will choose a fixed rate, Fannie Mae said.
The Subprime Bust in Microcosm: The Saga of a Failed Mortgage Package
In 1996, Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, remarked that there were two superpowers in the world - "the United States and Moody's Bond Rating Service" - and it was sometimes unclear which was more powerful. Moody's, then, was a private company that rated corporate bonds, but it was already exploring how to rate securities backed by pools of residential mortgages.
Us Housing Crisis Deepens as Sales Hit 17-year Low
Sales of new homes in the US plummeted far more than anticipated in March, to a 17-year low - a decline so severe that analysts now expect America’s housing crisis to cut the country’s economic growth in half this year. Purchases of new, as opposed to existing, homes fell by 8.5 per cent to an annual rate of 526,000 in March, from the month before, marking the lowest level since October 1991, according to the Commerce Department.
A Federal Cure for The U.Ss. Housing Crisis Faces Obstacles
Nine months into the worst housing crisis in a generation, Congress this week took up the most aggressive government plan so far to break spiraling home foreclosures and tumbling house prices that threaten to pull the economy down. But even as a key House committee began to mark up the bill Wednesday, there were signs that the measure could be caught up in a crippling political crossfire.
Pulte Loss Widens to $696.1 Million in Housing Slump
Pulte Homes Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. homebuilder, reported a $696.1 million first-quarter net loss, about three times wider than analysts expected, as stricter mortgage-lending standards cut demand. The net loss swelled to $2.75 a share, from $85.7 million, or 34 cents, a year earlier, the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based company said today in a statement. Pulte's sixth consecutive quarterly loss included $663.6 million of expenses to write down the value of land. Revenue declined 23 percent to $1.45 billion.
U.S. Lawmakers Set to Write Mortgage Bailout Bill
A U.S. House of Representatives panel that writes rules for the financial services industry is due on Thursday to outline a new federal program that could buy $300 billion in troubled home loans. The plan conceived by Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would give the Federal Housing Authority fresh funds and a new directive to catch home loans headed for foreclosure.
Fannie Mae Rethinks Rules Critics Labeled as Discriminatory
Fannie Mae, the largest US mortgage-finance company, said it may retool tougher lending standards that it just imposed after housing advocates called the new rules discriminatory to women and minorities.Fannie Mae and competitor Freddie Mac began introducing or raising fees late last year on mortgages they buy from banks because of rising loan defaults and a slump in home sales and prices. More than 80 housing advocates, mostly small community groups, sent letters to the companies' chief executives yesterday asking them to change the new pricing structures, which they said "is tantamount to both ethnic and gender discrimination."
Expert's Tips on Title Companies
A state inquiry into ties between real estate brokers and title insurance companies illustrates the need for consumers to take more control of the process, an industry consultant said Tuesday. Historically, most home sellers, or buyers in the case of a refinance, have relied on real estate brokers to select the title company. The title company also usually performs the closing service. But consumers potentially can save hundreds of dollars if they shop around and make the choice themselves, said consultant Garry Wolff.
BofA's Quarter Hints Economy Won't Dig Out of Hole Soon
If the 77 percent drop in Bank of America's first-quarter earnings is any indication, the economy may have a long way to go before it works out the problems that began with the subprime-mortgage crisis. The nation's largest retail bank Monday quintupled the money it set aside for loans that go sour. It also hinted that consumer weakness and the housing slump mean things will not get better for some time.
Lenders Derail Plan to Let Bankruptcy Judges Modify Mortgages
Sherrie Floyd says she was able to handle the first reset on the $505,000 mortgage she had taken out to refinance her Vallejo, Calif., home. And the second. But this month, when the mortgage reset for the third time -- driving her monthly payment to more than $4,300 on a home worth about $470,000 -- she told the judge overseeing her and her husband's bankruptcy case that they would have to abandon the place unless their lender agreed to modify their loan.
Best Ways to Fix The Subprime Mess
How do we stop the boom in foreclosures from doing more damage? Bureaucrats, consumer advocates, presidential candidates and plenty of others have plans. Here are 4 that, each for its own reason, offer particularly noteworthy fixes.
The Trillion-dollar Mortgage Time Bomb
Among the nightmares lurking around the corner for the already battered housing and credit markets would be a meltdown at mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Although few are predicting an imminent need for a bailout just yet, credit rating agency Standard & Poor's recently placed an estimated price tag on this worst case scenario -- $420 billion to $1.1 trillion of taxpayer's money.
Housing-credit Woes Spur Calls for More Federal Regulation
A heavier federal hand is reaching into American life as politicians in both parties demand an overhaul of government financial regulation and more protection for homeowners in the face of mortgage woes and a weakening economy. This rush to regulate also was apparent in the recent crackdown on the airlines, resulting in thousands of grounded flights for safety inspections as the government beefs up its enforcement of existing laws. There have been mounting proposals for tougher government rules to address climate change. High corporate salaries have come under attack on Capitol Hill, as have oil industry profits and rising food costs.
Condo Financing Getting a Lot Harder in Wake of Credit Woes
If you own or plan to buy a condominium, an ominous new phase of the mortgage credit squeeze could be looming on your horizon.As a result of underwriting changes by giant investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, plus severe new restrictions by private mortgage insurers, getting a loan on a condo unit - or even refinancing one you.
Re/Max Denies Title Firm Favoritism
Re/Max International denied allegations Monday that some franchisee brokers didn't get customer leads or vacation points unless they used First American for title insurance. Separately, Prudential Professional Realtors Inc. in Colorado Springs acknowledged it has a marketing agreement with a title-insurance company, but said the agreement is "above board," with brokers free to use other title companies.
Re/Max Suit Sparked State Probe
A lawsuit is what prompted the state to look into whether real estate brokerage companies are requiring title companies to pay for referrals. Re/Max International Inc. filed the suit against a California title company, First American Residential Group Inc., on March 20 in Denver District Court. The suit claims that First American didn't fulfill the terms of a marketing contract requiring it to pay Re/Max $1.35 million for marketing its services to Re/Max franchisees.
Edwards Steps Down From Stewart Title
The president of the city's leading title company resigned Wednesday, saying he wants to purse other opportunities. The man who replaced him in his former longtime position as head of the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors gave notice the next day of his departure, offering to stay on for a few months.
Subpoenas Issued in Real Estate Probe
The state is investigating whether nine Colorado real estate brokerages required title companies to pay up to $1 million each for referrals from their agents. The Colorado Division of Real Estate on Monday sent subpoenas via certified mail to the brokerages, as well as to a California company.
Foreclosures Push States to Try a Mix of Solutions
As the federal government debates responses to the foreclosure crisis, states are experimenting with a broad range of solutions, including emergency loans and agreements to limit high interest rates. The result is a rapidly changing patchwork of local approaches, some far-reaching, others modest, according to a survey issued Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Among other measures, 20 states have created intervention programs, 13 have set up counseling hot lines, 14 have assembled task forces and 9 have established funds for emergency loans or refinance loans, totaling $450 million.
Regulator Knocks Fannie, Freddie Appraisal Deal
An effort by Fannie Mae (FNM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Freddie Mac (FRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) to put home lenders and appraisers at arm's length is flawed, a top U.S. bank regulator said on Wednesday. Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan said the deal struck between the two mortgage-finance giants and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in early March will not eliminate flawed appraisals and might unduly burden mortgage companies. The plan would prohibit Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from buying home loans where the property value is determined by an in-house appraiser.
U.S. Economy is Rough Shape, Fed Reports
The U.S. economy is in rough shape, a reading of the Federal Reserve's most up-to-date report on conditions indicates, with conditions weakening across much of the nation. Consumer spending has fizzled out, labor-market conditions are worsening and manufacturing activity is treading water, according to the Fed's Beige Book collection of anecdotal information from its 12 regional banks. Nine of the 12 districts said economic conditions were worse in mid-April than in the previous month. Three said that conditions had not changed much.
Mortgage Fraud Cases Strain FBI
FBI Director Robert Mueller said the agency's mortgage fraud caseload has surged because of the subprime loan meltdown, and he expects it to grow further. There are now 19 investigations of Wall Street banks, mortgage lenders and other financial institutions, Mueller told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The inquiries have strained the FBI's resources and the agency has shifted agents from other duties to help out, he said.
Housing Bailout: Helping Hand Or Handout?
Even as home prices jumped earlier in the decade, conservative lenders in Vermont resisted high-cost, exotic loans. Today, as a massive U.S. housing bubble bursts, the state's mortgage delinquency rate is less than 3%, while values are still stable. In Nevada over the same period, home buyers gorged on unconventional loans, with 30% of Las Vegas borrowers taking out higher-cost subprime products in 2006. The state's delinquency rate is above 7%, home prices have plummeted, and in some areas, a majority of borrowers owe more than their homes are worth.
Median Price Keeps Falling
San Diego County's median home price tumbled below the $400,000 mark last month for the first time in nearly five years as the region grappled with rising foreclosures and defaults, DataQuick Information Systems reported yesterday. The overall median stood at $395,000, down $20,000 from February and off 19.4 percent from a year earlier. It was the first time since November 2003 that prices were below $400,000.
Fannie Mae Releases Homestay Details for Homeowners Facing Foreclosure
Fannie Mae is working with lenders, loan-servicing companies and policymakers to respond to the housing and mortgage market crisis. The goal is to minimize the impact on families and communities by preventing foreclosures, supporting counseling efforts and helping to stabilize the market by keeping affordable mortgage funds flowing to lenders and to home buyers — ultimately, to ease the pain of the housing correctionand speed the recovery.
Appraisers Say WaMu Cut Corners to Increase Its Mortgage Business
Washington Mutual's mortgage woes come as no surprise to Graham Albertini, a real-estate appraiser who worked at WaMu's Bellevue office when its mortgage business was going gangbusters. Over eight years, Albertini said, he watched the bank trade safety for speed in its home-lending operations. The trade-off, he said, eroded fundamental safeguards put in place to protect WaMu from lending more against homes than they were worth.
U.S. Steps Up Response to Housing Crisis
Amid reports that potential losses in the US housing crisis could near $1 trillion, Congress, the White House, and even the leading presidential candidates are converging on a strategy to create a federal safety net for hundreds of thousands of families facing the loss of their homes. At the heart of the emerging consensus is a bigger role for the Federal Housing Administration in helping borrowers refinance loans they cannot afford to pay. The issue is no longer if but how the Depression-era agency, eclipsed by new financial instruments in the boom years of the housing market, should ramp up fast enough to deal with the millions of homeowners facing foreclosure.
Prime Time for Subprime Plan
In the wake of the housing and subprime meltdown, companies face unprecedented legal exposure ranging from regulatory and criminal investigations to private litigation. To put this situation into historical perspective, the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s ultimately cost an estimated $160 billion and affected more than 1,600 U.S. banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It was one of the worst financial scandals in history. But the S&L crisis, while costly, was limited to only a section of U.S. financial institutions. In contrast, the breadth and the depth of the subprime mortgage crisis will likely far exceed that of the S&L crisis. Standard & Poor's has estimated that losses from securities linked to subprime mortgages will exceed $265 billion as financial institutions worldwide write down the value of their holdings. And the breadth and depth of regulatory investigations and private litigation, as discussed in this column, is unprecedented.
At Wachovia, Pick-A-Pay Becomes Pick-A-Problem
Wachovia Corp.'s (WB) controversial Pick-a-Payment mortgage program lets borrowers choose between four monthly payment amounts. Unfortunately for Wachovia, these "Pick-a-Pay" borrowers are increasingly inventing a fifth choice: Not making mortgage payments at all. The Charlotte bank reported on Monday a $350 million loss during this year's first quarter, due in large part to stunningly high losses within its $121 billion-plus book of flexible-payment, or Pick-a-Payment, mortgages - a legacy of Wachovia's ill-conceived 2006 purchase of Golden West Financial.
Title Companies to Appeal PRC Order
Title insurance companies are appealing an order reducing rates for title insurance in New Mexico. The state insurance superintendent has ordered a 6.3 percent drop in the rates, but an industry association argues that the amount is too much on top of previous reductions. A notice filed in state district court by the New Mexico Land Title Association and seven companies says the Public Regulation Commission, which oversees the Insurance Division, ordered the overall premium reduction.
AP Poll: Growing Majority Avoid Buying Homes as Pessimism Over Housing Crisis Grows
much is the nation's sputtering real estate market weighing on the minds of Americans? Quite a bit, according to a new poll. An Associated Press-AOL Money and Finance survey finds one-in-seven mortgage holders are worried that they won't be able to make their monthly payments on time over the next six months. And more than a-quarter are concerned that their home will lose value over the next two years.
Where WaMu Went Wrong
When Washington Mutual's shareholders gather at Benaroya Hall on Tuesday, they'll confront a company in full crisis mode.Seattle-based WaMu, one of the nation's biggest mortgage lenders and consumer bankers, lost money last year for the first time since 1984. Wall Street doesn't expect a return to profitability until sometime next year, if then. Billions of dollars in tarnished debt sit festering on WaMu's books.
HUD Boss Jackson Chided on Loan Oversight
The outgoing U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is getting a tepid farewell from critics who say he misread the growing housing slump. The Washington Post reported Sunday that Secretary Alphonso Jackson came under fire in recent months for repeatedly dismissed the developing downturn as a short-turn correction in the market and continuing to push legislation that would make it easier for lenders to make risky mortgage loans.
Title Insurers Face Criticism Over Pricing
The price of title insurance, a mandatory surcharge on every Massachusetts mortgage loan, more than doubled over the last decade. The average borrower last year paid about $1,500 at closing.A chorus of critics, including state regulators and members of Congress, say the title insurance industry overcharges its customers. The industry says it offers a valuable service at a fair price, and it has opposed reforms with considerable success. But there is still an easy way to cut the cost of insurance in half.
State Senator Targets Fraud in Real Estate Appraisals
The numbers in Enid just don’t add up right, said state Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid – not if real estate appraisers are placing a fair valuation on homes in the community. The Oklahoma Association of Realtors reported that home values in Enid increased more than 3 percent in 2007, while home values statewide increased by more than 4 percent, indicating that the state has been largely shielded from the national mortgage crisis that is driving down home values in other states.
Senate clears housing relief bill
After weeks of gridlock – and a presidential veto threat – the Senate passed a bipartisan housing package Thursday that Democratic leaders say President Bush will sign. The $15 billion Senate package includes tax breaks for home builders and homeowners, $100 million to boost mortgage counseling for families, and $4 billion in block grants for communities to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties. It's one of several measures now on a fast track on Capitol Hill to show voters that Congress is capable of responding to a deepening housing crisis now affecting financial markets across the world.
IMF Puts Subprime Loss Near $1 Trillion
The International Monetary Fund estimated that the subprime mortgage crisis could suck almost $1 trillion from the world economy, a loss that is only just starting to ripple across America and could worsen as it moves deeper into the financial markets. Major financial services firms have reported losses of $193 billion. The IMF added up the batches of bad mortgages, suspect securities and other commercial loans to predict total losses of $945 billion.
Merger Talks End At Home Loan Banks
The Federal Home Loan Banks of Chicago and Dallas ended merger talks, failing to reach an agreement after eight months of negotiations. Chicago Chief Executive Officer Mike Thomas is leaving the bank, which is losing money because of derivatives trades, and a search committee was charged with finding a successor in the next six weeks. "This deal had been clearly in trouble for some time," said Bert Ely of Ely & Co., a bank consulting firm in Alexandria, Va..
Citigroup, Wells Fargo May Fuel Recession by Curtailing Lending
Bank holding companies including Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. have the thinnest safety cushion against losses in seven years. The margin may erode further in coming weeks. Credit ratings on $704 billion of bonds have been cut this year following the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said last week that the downgrades may compromise bank capital ratios enough that some of the largest institutions will no longer be considered well capitalized.
Nutter: Federal Aid Needed During Housing Crisis
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says his city is facing a deluge of requests for homeowner assistance during the subprime mortgage crisis. Nutter testified at a Senate hearing that his city needs more federal housing aid.Nutter says cities could even see lower property taxes from reduced assessments as home prices continue to fall.
Washington Mutual to Exit Wholesale Lending
Housing Wire has learned that Washington Mutual (WM: 13.15, 0.00%) allegedly informed industry participants of its decision to exit wholesale mortgage origination on Monday evening, according to numerous sources. HW received a copy of an email allegedly sent to some brokers informing them of the move. “[C]onsistent with the company’s retail focused strategy, WaMu has made the very difficult decision to exit the Wholesale lending business,” the email said.
Ohio, Mortgage Co's Ink Foreclosure Prevention Deals
Nine mortgage companies have signed nonbinding agreements with Ohio to take steps to stem an avalanche of housing foreclosures in that state, the governor and other officials announced on Monday. "This is the first in the nation where a state has achieved signed agreements between the state and loan servicers. That's why I say this is a historic day in Ohio," Gov. Ted Strickland said at a signing ceremony for the compacts.
Fed's Rosengren Calls Delay in Housing Recovery a `Surprise'
Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said the delay in a rebound of U.S. home sales continues to ``surprise.' ``People have been expecting a recovery in housing much sooner than it has occurred and that's continued to surprise on the downside,'' Rosengren said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News.
HUD Proposes a New Good Faith Estimate
Getting a mortgage can be confusing and frustrating. To make it less so, the federal housing department has proposed an overhaul of the mortgage process, from application to closing. The proposed regulatory changes are designed to do a number of things: make it easier to compare mortgage offers while shopping, force lenders to estimate closing costs more accurately, and ensure that borrowers know the terms of their loans.
Investors, Not Fed, to Blame for Crisis-greenspan
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has defended himself from charges that easy U.S. monetary policy created the current credit crisis by inflating a housing bubble, and instead blamed professional investors. In an article in Monday's Financial Times newspaper, Greenspan wrote that the housing bubble which inflated between 2001 and 2006 had not been unique to the United States. "The U.S. bubble was close to median world experience and the evidence that monetary policy added to the bubble is statistically very fragile," Greenspan wrote.
Housing Crisis Hits Its Own
A year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association was thrilled to sign a contract to buy a fancy new headquarters building in downtown Washington. Interest rates were low, the group's revenues were steady and the prospects for quickly renting out part of the structure were strong. But since then, the association has fallen on tough times as many of the subprime mortgages dispensed by some of its members proved dicey. Borrowers discovered the loans were more costly than they had anticipated. Foreclosures soared, and cheap, inexpensive credit dried up, slowing the economy.
Bills Seek to Ease Crisis in Housing
Gov. Martin O'Malley held his first bill signing of the year yesterday to enact a number of emergency bills designed to address the foreclosure crisis gripping the state. The Democratic governor approved three bills to lengthen the minimum length of foreclosure proceedings from 15 days to more than four months, to enact tougher criminal sanctions against mortgage fraud and to crack down on foreclosure-rescue scams in which troubled borrowers are duped into losing title to their homes.
Difficult Housing Market Hammers Ann Arbor-area Title Companies
Metropolitan Title Co. shuttered its Ann Arbor office in late March, evidence that the sluggish housing market is taking its toll on title insurance underwriters. Metropolitan Title, which maintains offices in Howell, Brighton and many other Michigan communities, isn't the only title insurance office that's hurting. Others report budget cuts, including staff reductions, but say they plan to weather the downturn.
in Today's Market, Mortgage Doesn't Come Easy
With falling housing prices, relatively low interest rates and an abundant inventory of properties to choose from, you'd think buying a home these days would be a breeze. That's until you start shopping for a mortgage. Stung by the subprime mortgage crisis, lenders have tightened their requirements considerably, giving even the most creditworthy borrowers a hard time when it comes to qualifying for a new mortgage or refinancing an existing one.
Dreary appraisal by Fed chairman
For the first time, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke acknowledged that the United States could be propelled into recession by the housing, credit and financial crises. With home foreclosures swelling and job losses rising, Bernanke offered Congress an unflinching assessment yesterday of potential damage to the economy. "A recession is possible," he said. "Our estimates are that we're slightly growing at the moment, but we think that there's a chance that for the first half as a whole, there might be a slight contraction."
As Downturn Rages On, Lenders Consider eMortgages
Funny thing about the mortgage meltdown; despite it, the industry is finally embracing the promise of electronic mortgages, a technology movement that began during the boom but never really fully took off. Until now.In the worst origination market in memory, the technology that was pushed as the future of mortgages a few years back appears as if it’s finally being adopted by some of the industry’s meaningful players.Seattle-based DocuSign said Wednesday that it was selected as an approved electronic signature vendor for Wells Fargo, and will provide its service to major correspondent lenders working with the bank. DocuSign provides a on-demand platform for electronic signatures of key disclosure documents, including truth-in-lending notifications and 1003 applcations.
Bipartisan Effort Aims to Ease Housing Crisis
Under pressure from voters to address the nation's housing crisis, Senate Republicans agreed Tuesday to work with Democrats on a compromise plan to stimulate sagging home sales and help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure.The agreement calls for Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, to lay out a bipartisan substitute today for a Democratic housing bill that is opposed by the Bush administration and was blocked in February by Senate Republicans.Although the two sides had not agreed on the specifics of a compromise Tuesday, both offered proposals that would strengthen truth-in-lending laws for the mortgage industry, provide counseling to homeowners facing foreclosure and help some borrowers refinance their homes.
Fannie Mae Takes Another Step to Ease Capital Need
Fannie Mae, the largest provider of funding for U.S. residential mortgages, has extended forbearances for troubled homeowners in a move the company expects to ease stress on its capital. Giving homeowners greater leeway will help Fannie Mae limit the costly process of purchasing bad loans out of the $2.5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities it guarantees. Under standard accounting rules, buying mortgages out of MBS trusts forces the company to revalue the loans at market levels, which last year boosted fair value losses sevenfold to $1.4 billion.
Questions Remain Over New Aid Plans
As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposed overhauling the regulatory framework for the financial system, Democrats in Congress on Monday said it was far more urgent to try and quickly stabilize the housing market. But even as Democratic lawmakers pledged to move swiftly on a plan to have the government guarantee $400 billion in troubled mortgages, industry experts said that help might come too late for many strapped borrowers.
Federal Insurance Regulation Proposed Again
The idea of regulating the insurance industry on a federal rather than state level has emerged again, this time as part of the U.S. Treasury's response to the financial crisis. However, some say the insurance industry should be left out of the proposals because most of the industry hasn't been hit that hard by the credit crisis.
Some U.S. Homes Now Worth Less Than Their Copper Pipes
Shards of broken glass outside the basement window of 31 Vine Street (Brockton, Mass.) hint at the destruction inside the three-story home. Thieves smashed the window to break in and then gutted the property for its copper pipes -- a crime that has spread across the United States as the economy slows and foreclosed homes stand empty and vulnerable.
Officials File Civil Lawsuit against 3 Former Florida Insurance Companies
The Florida Department of Financial Services filed a civil lawsuit against the officers, directors and affiliates of three former Florida insurance companies, according to Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. Lawyers for DFS, the court-appointed Receiver of Atlantic Preferred Insurance Co., Florida Preferred Property Insurance Co. and Southern Family Insurance Co. (Poe Companies), have now determined the state has the right to recover additional money.
HUD Secretary Jackson Resigns Amid Federal Probe
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson quit following calls by lawmakers for him to step down amid a federal criminal probe into contracts the agency awarded.
As Owners Default, Lenders Move in
Chicago-based Harris Bank's REOs grew to $11.5 million at the end of 2007, up from $4.9 million at the end of 2006, according to documents filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That includes commercial and residential properties.
U.S. Treasury Pitches Regulatory Overhaul
reasury Secretary Henry Paulson revealed sweeping plans on Monday for streamlining a hodgepodge of regulations that are blamed for allowing the U.S. mortgage crisis to balloon into a full-blown economic threat. The proposals, in the form of a 218-page "blueprint" that was started before markets unraveled last August, offer no quick fix for the credit contraction that threatens to tip the U.S. economy into recession..
Arming against foreclosure: Should bankruptcy laws be tweaked to help homeowners avoid foreclosure?
For many people, filing for bankruptcy is seen as a scary, worst-case scenario, but consumer advocates say this last resort could be a real help for beleaguered homeowners. There is no shortage of proposals in Congress to address the housing crisis: the Depression-era Federal Housing Administration is up for a makeover, and there are other plans to ease the stress of pricey mortgages. Under veto threat is a proposal that consumer advocates see as key to helping more people stay in their homes: allowing bankruptcy courts to modify troubled mortgages on primary residences.
Bush Seeks Financial Regulation Overhaul
The Bush administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the way the government regulates the nation's financial services industry from banks and securities firms to mortgage brokers and insurance companies. The Fed would be given broad authority to oversee financial market stability. That would include new powers to examine the books of any institution deemed to represent a potential threat to the proper functioning of the overall financial system.
Fidelity National critiques new mortgage rules
Financial-data processing company Fidelity National Information Services Inc. said new government regulations that prohibit lenders from using in-house appraisals when assessing loan values could substantially harm its business.
FDIC to Boost Staffing in Bank Failures
agency Says it Has No New Information About Failures
Federal banking regulators will hire 140 new employees in an effort to reassure the public they are well-positioned to deal with a possible increase in bank failures over the next year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday.The agency will increase the staff of the Division of Resolution and Receiverships by 60%, most of who would be temporary and based in Dallas.
KPMG Allowed Fraud At New Century, Report Says
Auditor KPMG (KPMG.UL) either initiated accounting fraud at New Century Financial Corp (NEWCQ.PK) or stood idly by as the failed subprime mortgage lender committed fraud in 2005 and 2006, an independent report requested by the U.S. Department of Justice shows. Once the second-largest U.S. subprime lender, New Century filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last April 2, and was one of the first major casualties of the current U.S. housing crisis, which has roiled global financial markets. It had been one of the largest U.S. providers of home loans to people with poor credit.
New Insurance Policy Targets Property Values
A new insurance policy being offered in Connecticut and most other states pledges to protect people, for the first time, against one of the top impacts they cite when a neighborhood-changing development or project comes to town: declining property values. Inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. New London decision, the policy won't actually apply to those whose property is targeted by the government for eminent domain acquisition. But it will be offered to their neighbors. The new policy is intended for property owners who don't get any government reimbursement even though their property values are affected.
US Mortgage Aid Plan Sees Role for Fannie, Freddie
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have to meet new goals to invest in troubled loans and erase some mortgage debt for borrowers facing foreclosure under legislation contemplated by a leading Democratic lawmaker. The two biggest sources of U.S. mortgage financing would be required to buy troubled loans that had undergone a reduction in their principal amount and could be forced to hold larger reserves against those loans going bad, according to the summary of a bill being drafted by Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Fannie Mae Tightens Loan Restrictions
Fannie Mae, the largest provider of money for US home loans, tightened an exception to a policy reinstated last year to limit credit losses, potentially making it harder for consumers to refinance lower-cost loans. Fannie Mae will no longer allow homeowners to refinance loans it either owns or has packaged into bonds at typical loan-to-value ratios in areas with falling home prices if they're going to use proceeds to pay off a second mortgage.
New-Home Sales in U.S. Fall to Lowest in 13 Years
Sales of new homes in the U.S. fell in February to the lowest level in 13 years as tighter loan restrictions and the prospect of even lower prices kept buyers away. Sales dropped 1.8 percent from the prior month to an annual pace of 590,000, the least since February 1995, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. January purchases were revised higher. The median price decreased 2.7 percent from a year earlier.
HUD seeks to change lending disclosures, fees
Almost anyone who's bought a house or taken out a mortgage in recent years knows the problems: -- Lenders' good-faith estimates of loan and settlement fees provided at application too often are off the mark. Eleventh-hour surprise charges can add hundreds...
Wall Street CFOs See Opportunities in Crunch
Wall Street's biggest firms, battered by the breakdown in mortgage and other debt markets, say there's money to be made among the wreckage.
A Ray of Light for Housing?
U.S. home sales increased unexpectedly last month for the first time since the middle of last year, a sign that homebuyers are taking advantage of big drops in prices. Figures released yesterday by the National Association of Realtors show the median price of an existing home fell more than 8 percent last month from a year earlier, the largest decline since the trade group began tracking the market in 1968. Sales, on the other hand, rose in February over January, breaking a six-month downward streak.
Mortgage Securities Lure Pensions
The subprime mortgage crisis has yielded at least one benefit for states: Mortgage-related investments have become so cheap that they are luring some pension funds to buy.
KB Home Sued Over Appraisals
In a time when tens of thousands of people are losing their homes to foreclosure, house prices are falling and the mortgage industry is being criticized for its part in the credit crisis, it's not surprising that some disputes end up in court. But until now, I've written about precious few of them. Why? So many of them just don't inspire me enough to put pen to paper.
Qualified Borrowers Face Credit Squeeze
Lenders are rejecting more loan applicants with strong credit scores, the latest indication the nation's credit crunch is deepening and further depressing the housing market and the economy. Mortgage companies are growing more cautious and tightening lending standards for some of their most credit-worthy customers - from increasing down payments for home purchases to requiring higher credit scores for loan approvals.
Fannie Mae Contributes SMART Doc Validation Patent to MISMO
MISMO, the not-for-profit data standards subsidiary of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), and Fannie Mae announced that Fannie Mae has contributed a new patent to MISMO under the MISMO Intellectual Property Rights Policy so that it may be used by the real estate finance industry on a royalty-free basis.
New Crisis, Old Isms
The Federal Reserve Bank's decision last week to address the housing crisis by extending $200 billion of taxpayer-financed credit to Wall Street banks was met with a stunned reaction typical of surprising events. But really, the move was the expression of long-standing isms that routinely package corruption as sound public policy.
Fitch Downgrades $697.2 Million in Ameriquest RMBS Deals
In yet another round of subprime RMBS downgrades, Fitch Ratings said late yesterday that it had downgraded a total of nearly $700 million from four different Ameriquest RMBS deals. The majority of the downgrades hit a 2005 transaction, Argent Securities Inc. (ARSI) series 2005-W4, which saw $414.8 million from 8 classes downgraded. None of the downgrades were to AAA-rated tranches, although loss coverage ratios for some affirmed classes are now well-below the level usually required to maintain an AAA rating.
Credit Suisse Drops Most Since 2002 as Bank Sees Loss
Credit Suisse Group fell the most in more than five years in Swiss trading after the company said it may post a first-quarter loss because of writedowns on debt securities deliberately mispriced by employees. Switzerland's second-largest bank dropped as much as 11 percent, the most since October 2002, and was down 4.52 francs to 47.28 francs by 3:09 p.m. The Zurich-based bank said today it will write down $2.65 billion over the fourth quarter and first three months of 2008, making a profit this quarter "unlikely."
U.S. Treasury Rejects Democrats' Calls for Housing Bailout
The Bush administration rejected suggestions that it is negotiating with congressional Democrats on legislative proposals to use government funds to ease a worsening U.S. housing recession. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, today said in a Bloomberg Television interview that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is ``sympathetic'' to a proposal by Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank to let the government insure refinanced mortgages. Dodd two days ago said ``there's a greater receptivity'' from the administration.
Report: State ranks at top in mortgage crisis
When Keshia Arrington of Newton bought her home nearly six years ago, her mortgage lender told her she should have no problem with her adjustable rate mortgage. " When I originally got it, they set it up and said in two years I could refinance," she said. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, putting Arrington out of her factory job for several weeks before, in the slowing post-Katrina economy, she was laid off entirely. She eventually found another job, but she was behind on her payments and unable to refinance the loan.When the loan adjustment hit, her monthly payments went up 40 percent. "And the (interest) rate went up to 12.5 percent when it started as seven or eight," she said.
Can’t Grasp Credit Crisis? Join The Club
Raise your hand if you don’t quite understand this whole financial crisis. It has been going on for seven months now, and many people probably feel as if they should understand it. But they don’t, not really. The part about the housing crash seems simple enough. With banks whispering sweet encouragement, people bought homes they couldn’t afford, and now they are falling behind on their mortgages.
Fed Cuts Fail to Lower 30-year Mortgage Rates
The Federal Reserve has been slashing short-term interest rates since August with precious little effect on the one that matters most to homeowners and home buyers: the 30-year fixed mortgage rate. That rate is roughly where it was a year ago, while the discount rate, which is what banks pay to borrow directly from the central bank, is 4 percentage points lower. The Fed's opening of the spigot of cheaper money is supposed to spur across-the-board spending and economic growth, reversing the tide of recession, but bankers have in effect put a knot in the hose.
Wilbur Ross Will Buy H&R Block Unit for $1.1 Billion
Billionaire Wilbur Ross agreed to buy the mortgage-servicing unit of H&R Block Inc. for about $1.1 billion, creating the second-largest U.S. firm that collects payments on subprime loans.
Program Helps with Short Sales
Horizon Realty's broker-owner Matt Augustyniak says he has devised a new plan for "desperate home sellers." "The threat of foreclosure causes an enormous amount of distress, but we are here to help," Augustyniak said. "Sellers were forced to vacate their property early because they felt they wouldn't be able to get a rental if their credit got any worse."Horizon's "Short Sale Investor Program" consists of investors who are willing to buy the homes and allow the sellers to then lease the property for up to two years for a "reasonable amount of rent."
Bear Stearns Fiasco is Regulatory Failure
There are uncountable culprits and dupes in the extraordinary chain of events that finished Bear Stearns, Wall Street's fifth-largest investment bank. But at its heart the crisis is a failure of regulation. If not for the Federal Reserve's and the Bush administration's refusal to stop crazy mortgage lending, former Bear boss James E. Cayne would still be chewing cigars in his Manhattan office, counting his money and complaining about regulators.
Landlords Find Deals in Housing Crisis
The housing crisis and credit crunch may end the American dream of property ownership for millions of people, but for landlords seeking bargain investment properties the market is looking up. "There will be a lot of product hitting the street in the coming months and it should be pretty cheap," said Mike Bacza, watching the bidding at a foreclosure auction last month in this western suburb of Chicago. "This year I expect I'll buy at least two multi-family units in a decent neighborhood."
Plain-talk Disclosures Proposed
Mortgage disclosure forms, long considered baffling, incomprehensible and misleading, are about to get an overhaul, federal officials promised Friday. In a bid to prevent misunderstandings and bait-and-switch tactics that have helped fuel today's mortgage crisis, U.S. housing officials proposed the first major overhaul of mortgage loan disclosures in 30 years. Housing officials estimated that the proposal could save consumers an average of $670 on each loan because borrowers could finally make simple comparisons of loan terms and fees -- before they sign on the dotted line.
How Bad is The Mortgage Crisis Going to Get?
What started in subprime is likely to continue cascading into the markets and keep the economy down until 2010, economist Paul Krugman forecasts. Bottom line for homeowners: An average drop of 25%.
Carlyle Expects Banks to Seize Assets
Carlyle Capital Corp. said it expects creditors to seize all of the fund's remaining assets after unsuccessful negotiations to prevent its liquidation, sending its shares plunging. The Amsterdam-listed fund shook financial markets last week after missing margin calls from banks on its $21.7 billion portfolio of residential-mortgage-backed bonds. Carlyle's troubles have amplified fears that billions of dollars of depressed mortgage-backed securities will flood the market, reducing their value even further. More than $5 billion of Carlyle's securities have already been sold, but the fund tried to negotiate with the banks to prevent the liquidation of the remaining $16 billion.
U.S. Home Foreclosures Rise 60% in February as Mortgages Reset
U.S. home foreclosure filings jumped 60 percent and bank repossessions more than doubled in February as rates on adjustable mortgages rose and property owners were unable to sell or refinance amid falling prices. More than 223,000 properties were in some stage of default, or 1 in every 557 U.S. households, Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc. said today in a statement. Nevada, California and Florida recorded the highest state foreclosure rates.
The Next Shoe to Drop in Housing
The credit crunch has finally hit the traditional mortgage market. Investors are now shunning mortgage-backed securities issued by government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have been critical in keeping the real estate market from completely falling apart. Some fear this development will make it harder for people, even those with strong credit histories, to get a home loan.
Watch List (March 9-15): Maturity Defaults Grow
In this week’s issue: matured balloon loans are driving up delinquencies in CDO and CMBS deals; the MBA reports that apartment loans are at historical lows; title insurers go into the red; Citi is cutting mortgage assets and operations; and a performing loan on a trophy office asset in Dayton goes up for auction. Plus, we give you the latest notices of facility closures and mass layoffs and properties on the Watch List.
Mortgage Application Fees May Rise on Appraisal Reform
It's going to cost some borrowers even more to get a mortgage beginning in 2009. In a recent agreement with New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500) pledged that they will only buy mortgages from lenders that use independent appraisers. Since these two companies account for more than 70% of all mortgage loans, virtually all lenders will comply with the guidelines. Inflated home appraisals were a big part of what helped fuel the current housing bubble. For years, appraisers were pressured by mortgage originators, real estate agents, home sellers and borrowers to over-value the homes they appraised.
Fed Announces $200-billion Securities Swaps to Help Banks
Attempting to break the credit logjam that is threatening the already weakened economy, the Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced a new program to pump massive sums into the financial system. The battered stock market, which on Monday had fallen to its lowest levels in at least 18 months, responded with its biggest one-day rally in five years. The Dow Jones industrial average rocketed 416.66 points, or 3.6%, to 12,156.81. In a surprise, the Fed said it would begin to temporarily lend major banks and brokerages as much as $200 billion in U.S. Treasury securities it owns, in exchange for mortgage-backed securities that in many cases have slumped in value because of market anxiety over soaring loan defaults.
Fannie, Freddie Shares Suffer Hit As Mortgage-Default Fears Mount
Shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged as fears grew that home-mortgage defaults eventually will force the two government-sponsored companies to raise more capital.Large sales of common stock by the companies would dilute the value of existing shares. In 4 p.m. composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Fannie shares fell 13%, or $2.96, to $19.81 apiece, while Freddie shares fell 12%, or $2.26, to $17.39.
Moody's, S&P Defer Cuts on AAA Subprime, Hiding Loss
Even after downgrading almost 10,000 subprime-mortgage bonds, Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service haven't cut the ones that matter most: AAA securities that are the mainstays of bank and insurance company investments. None of the 80 AAA securities in ABX indexes that track subprime bonds meet the criteria S&P had even before it toughened ratings standards in February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A bond sold by Deutsche Bank AG in May 2006 is AAA at both companies even though 43 percent of the underlying mortgages are delinquent.
Mortgage Fees Get Broader Disclosure
A seemingly arcane policy change by mortgage investor Freddie Mac sheds new light on issues of much broader concern for consumers: Do you really understand where the money is flowing when you take out a mortgage and pay thousands of dollars in fees at settlement? Is anyone required to explain to you what's really going on inside your home loan? And could any of this soon be improved?
Fed Plan Not a Housing, Mortgage Market Cure
A central bank plan to infuse the financial system with new cash is a temporary fix for the debilitated U.S. mortgage bond and housing markets, but not a cure. The program announced by the Federal Reserve on Tuesday frees up money for mortgage loans and dealer bond buying in the two markets paralyzed by limited funding and fears of bank failures, economists and analysts say. "This is a tourniquet, it will staunch the bleeding, but it may not turn us around and bring the patient to health," said Susan Wachter, real estate and finance professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Dodd May Submit New Housing Bill
Sen. Christopher Dodd could announce later this week new legislation that would create a corporation to help troubled homeowners refinance their home loans, a staffer said Monday.Jonathan Miller, a staff member of the Senate Banking Committee that Dodd chairs, said Monday that Dodd could have an announcement on the proposal this week.
Home Woes Multiply
With the U.S. economy on the brink of recession, mortgage rates should be plunging back toward 2003’s record lows - but aren’t. Rates have shot up in recent days to about 3 percentage points above 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yields - a full percentage point above normal and the highest “spread” in 22 years. “The Fed keeps lowering the Fed Funds rate, but mortgage rates haven’t dropped,” said mortgage broker/lender John Battaglia of Cambridge Mortgage Group.
Mortgage Lenders See More Borrowers Give Up
On the front lines in the mortgage foreclosure crisis, lender and loan servicer Dennis Lauria says his deepest losses are from borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth and simply mail in the keys, rather than try to work out a new payment plan. "I can't get you to pay if you've got no skin in the game," says Lauria, senior vice president of Popular Mortgage Servicing in Cherry Hill, N.J., who says 14% of his customers with subprime loans — high-interest loans given to people with poor credit ratings — are in default.
a Brutal Week for Credit Markets
Problems in the banking and credit markets intensified last week, spreading to sectors that had been weathering the storm.The week started with Thornburg Mortgage, which specializes in high-quality jumbo loans, saying it couldn't meet margin calls from lenders. By week's end, investors were dumping the securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, considered the bedrocks of the housing market.
HUD Set to Put Economic Stimulus Act Into Play
Borrowers caught up in the national credit crunch are waiting for the federal government to toss them a lifeline by increasing the size of loans that mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase. The Economic Stimulus Act approved by Congress is expected to soon raise the “conforming” limit on such loans from $417,000 to as much as $729,750 in some high-cost housing markets.
Mortgage Crisis Slices Into Equity
Juan Medina, who spent 30 years working at U.S. Steel in Pittsburg, has no equity on his house here and an adjustable-rate mortgage for which the interest-only payment has gone up to $5,500 a month."I'm retired," Medina, 62, said. "I tried at least 20 different lenders and there's no equity in the home."Although the notice of public auction was slated for Feb. 26, it was postponed until April 9. The home, according to estimates on ForeclosureRadar, has lost about $27,258 in equity, and Medina is one of the 8.8 million homeowners who now owes more than the house is worth.
10 Things to Know About Silicon Valley Real Estate - Right Now
Thousands of Silicon Valley residents are crouched on the sidelines of the housing market, watching and wondering when to make a purchase or put a home up for sale. And they've got questions: When will we hit bottom? Can prices in Cupertino keep going up? When will the mortgage market stabilize? To help, here is the Mercury News' list of Top 10 Things to Know Right Now.
U.S. Mortgage Foreclosures Rise as Owners `Give Up'
U.S. mortgage foreclosures rose to an all-time high at the end of 2007 as borrowers with adjustable-rate loans walked away from properties before their payments increased, the Mortgage Bankers Association said today. New foreclosures jumped to 0.83 percent of all home loans in the fourth quarter from 0.54 percent a year earlier. Late payments rose to a 23-year high, the organization said in a report today.
Bernanke Urges Banks to Help Borrowers More
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a roomful of bankers Tuesday that they need to do more to help troubled borrowers. Banks have been giving borrowers who are about to default more time to make payments and are renegotiating interest rates in some cases, but few banks have considered reducing the principal owed. That's exactly what the Fed chairman suggested they do.
Fraud Compounds Woes of Housing Crisis
As the U.S. housing meltdown forces hundreds of thousands of Americans from their homes, the extent to which fraud was a factor in the crisis is just coming to light.Products such as stated-income loans -- known as "liar loans" because no proof of income was needed -- led to widespread misrepresentation by borrowers about their earnings. But far more sinister forms of fraud, including identity theft and "straw buyers" -- those created using fake documents -- are also coming into the open.
How's The Economy in Your Hometown?
On the campaign trail and in homes across the USA, the debate is underway about whether the U.S. economy in 2008 will see its first downturn in seven years.Despite the recent onslaught of negative news, it remains unclear whether the current state of affairs meets the economists' definition of a recession: a widespread decline in economic activity lasting more than just a few months. As in politics, all economics is local. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, for example, believes the U.S. economy is in recession.
U.S. Housing Crisis Puts Off First-time Buyers
For decades, buying a home was a key step on the path to financial security for the American middle class. Home owners could count on a fixed mortgage payment rather than rising rent, take advantage of tax breaks, and build equity as their houses increased in value over time. But with home prices falling and families losing their homes to foreclosure, some people who under other circumstances would be looking to buy their first home now see greater security in renting.
Home Loan Modifications Uncommon, Report Says
Most of California's mortgage lenders and loan servicers are not helping consumers facing foreclosure, and most will lose their homes, a home advocacy group reported Monday.Most of California's mortgage lenders and loan servicers are not helping consumers facing foreclosure, and most will lose their homes, a home advocacy group reported Monday.The California Reinvestment Coalition, a San Francisco-based coalition of nonprofit groups that advocates for minorities and the poor, reported that despite state and federal initiatives, most lenders are not proactively reaching consumers or modifying existing loans.
Forecast: No Housing Recovery Until 2009
A widening credit crunch and rising risks of a US recession will delay the Boston housing market's recovery until mid-2009, according to a new forecast. House prices in the Boston metropolitan area, which have fallen 7 percent since their 2005 peak, will decline another 8 percent before starting to recover in the middle of 2009, Moody's Economy.com said yesterday.The forecast has "gotten a little bit worse," said Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at the Philadelphia economic consulting firm. "We expect prices to bottom out in 2009."
Title Company Growing
The roots of a North Dakota title company office are 100 years deep in Mandan, and started underground, as most roots do, in a small room under Mandan's Ben Franklin building. There, employees wrote brief histories at their bulky metal desks, followed paper trails and pounded out property abstracts, keeping tabs on the stories of ownership of the area's homes.
Second-mortgage Issues Join Resetting Rates for 1-2 Punch
Everybody wants to help keep people in their houses rather than in foreclosure, right? That's what the Bush administration says, seconded by executives of major banks, mortgage firms and Wall Street investors. But at the point where homeowners seek to refinance out of unfavorable loans or modify mortgage terms things may look different.
FHA Changes Ease Loan Rules
The Federal Housing Administration has revamped several of its loan programs, making it easier for buyers to purchase a home and current owners to refinance their mortgage.
A Break for Beleaguered Homeowners
Looking for a bright spot in the troubled housing market? Consider the tax code, which still makes home ownership one of the sweetest deals around.The Internal Revenue Service can't rescue owners who overpaid or can't sell, or borrowers who can't afford their mortgages. But lots of homeowners still reap some of the biggest federal tax breaks from deductions while living in a home and tax-free income when selling one.
Comparing Today's Housing Crisis With the 1930s
It's been called the worst housing slump since the Great Depression. But is the current downturn really anywhere near as bad? As old photos of bread lines and Dust Bowl migrants clearly attest, the economic downturn of the 1930s was—and still is—unprecedented. While a far smaller percentage of Americans actually owned their homes back then, millions nonetheless lost both their jobs and the roofs over their heads.
Bernanke Weighs Mortgage Buyouts to Curb Slowdown
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it's "worthwhile" to consider letting the federal government buy distressed mortgages if the worst housing slump in a quarter-century deepens. "I think that it is worthwhile to be thinking about possible approaches one might take if the housing situation were to get much worse," Bernanke said Wednesday in response to a question during his semiannual appearance before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington.
Fannie Mae Posts Nearly $3.6B Loss in 4Q
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be allowed to expand their roles in the turbulent mortgage market even as worsening conditions in the housing sector punish the two companies. Fannie, the largest buyer and backer of U.S. home loans, said Wednesday it lost nearly $3.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007 amid mounting home-loan delinquencies and soured bets on interest rates. Freddie is expected Thursday to report a $1.5 billion fourth-quarter loss, according to Wall Street estimates. Under a previous agreement with federal regulators, the timely filing of Fannie's and Freddie's financial results triggers the removal of an investment-portfolio cap placed in the aftermath of multibillion-dollar accounting scandals at the government-sponsored companies.
Fannie Proposes Ban on Lenders' In-House Appraisers
Fannie Mae, the biggest source of financing for U.S. home loans, told lenders it will probably ban their use of appraisals by in-house employees or those arranged by brokers. Fannie Mae distributed the proposal, a response to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's yearlong mortgage probe, to lenders in a ``talking points'' memo this week, according to a person familiar with the document. The memo was published on American Banker's Web site yesterday.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Portfolio Caps Will Be Lifted
U.S. regulators for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac removed limits on the companies' $1.5 trillion mortgage portfolios, bringing an end to a restriction that stifled their ability to provide financing for the housing market. The caps, imposed in 2006 after the two largest mortgage finance companies uncovered $11.3 billion of accounting errors, will end on March 1, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said in a statement today. Ofheo kept in place a requirement for the companies to hold extra capital.
Lender Ordered to Halt Foreclosures
A Massachusetts court, in an unprecedented decision yesterday, ordered the California subprime lender Fremont Investment & Loan to halt all foreclosures to give state officials time to review each mortgage. The order, issued yesterday by the Suffolk Superior Court, is the latest action in an October lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that alleged Fremont engaged in predatory and unfair lending when it made home loans to individuals who often could not afford them. In a 29-page order, Justice Ralph Gants said a large share of Fremont's mortgage loans could potentially be considered "structurally unfair" under the state's lending laws. The mortgages were unfair, he said, if they met four criteria, including low introductory rates that shot up once that initial period ended.
Democrat in Call for $20B Federal Subprime Rescue Plan
A leading Democratic lawmaker yesterday called for $20bn in public funds to be made available to the Federal Housing Administration to buy and refinance pools of subprime mortgages. The proposal, by Barney Frank, chairman of the House financial services committee, reinforced suggestions that Democrats in Congress are becoming more willing to advocate taxpayer-funded intervention in the mortgage market, widening the political divide with the US administration.
Housing Woes Put Bush, Hill At Odds
Congressional leaders yesterday gathered support for aggressive changes to bankruptcy laws that would help troubled homeowners, even as the Bush administration threatened to veto the plan and emphasized its opposition to any program that would risk tax dollars. Democrats are calling for the government to do more than what the administration has done to date. They propose a range of initiatives that include the purchase of troubled mortgage securities by a federal agency and the empowering of bankruptcy judges to change the terms of high-interest loans held by homeowners facing foreclosure.
New York Attorney General Near Fannie, Freddie Deal
Mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would require their mortgage lending partners to have independent appraisals of home values under a deal being thrashed out with New York's attorney general, sources familiar with a draft deal said on late Monday. Andrew Cuomo, New York's top lawyer, began a wide-ranging investigation last spring into how Wall Street bundled and sold billions of dollars of home loans to investors and a deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would close an important line of his inquiry.
Nationwide Squeezes All But The Most Cash-laden Buyers
Mortgage borrowers unable to muster a big deposit have become the latest victims of the credit crunch after Britain's biggest building society effectively shut its doors to all but the most cash-rich buyers. Nationwide has told customers wanting a loan for more than 75 per cent of a property's value that they will pay higher rates of interest to reflect the increased risks involved. It raised interest rates on deals above that threshold by 0.2 percentage points last week, blaming higher mortgage funding costs and a cooling housing market for the decision.
Are we too gloomy about the economy?
Ken Fisher is one of the most successful investment advisors in the United States. Forbes Magazine regularly lists him as one of the 400 richest Americans, and has published a monthly column by him since 1984. His father, Philip Fisher, wrote one of the very first bestselling investment guides, cited by no less an authority than Warren Buffett as a seminal influence on his own stock picking strategy. He's hard to miss. If you happen to Web surf your way to a Forbes article published online, a video ad for his services adorns nearly every page. Indeed, his Web ads are infamous throughout the online stock picking world.
Congress to Examine Housing Proposals
Congress is set to examine another round of possible repairs for consumers and investors threatened by widening cracks in the housing market. Proposals include easing bankruptcy rules, shielding banks from lawsuits and providing government assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. Lawmakers also plan this week to question several high-profile mortgage and banking executives about industrywide losses and lavish executive-compensation packages.
Kenneth Harney -- Nation's Housing
settlement Fees a Hazy Area for Buyers
A seemingly arcane policy change by mortgage investor Freddie Mac sheds new light on issues of much broader concern for consumers: Do you really understand where the money is flowing -- all the nooks and crannies -- when you take out a mortgage and pay thousands of dollars in fees at settlement? Is anyone required to explain to you what's really going on inside your home loan -- how it works and whether it could morph into something very different? And could any of this improve soon?
Title Insurance Protects Buyers
It's a bad idea, according to most experts. Failing to insure that you will be the sole owner before buying a house can cost a buyer extra fees — and in some cases the house itself — later on. One of Amanda Gibson's clients found out the hard way. New to buying and flipping houses, the young man paid a woman cash to buy a house that was left by her deceased mother. The investor then made repairs and signed a contract to sell it to a new buyer.
Mortgage Crisis: Don't Forgive Debt, Just Postpone Repayment
A plan that would help troubled mortgage borrowers today - and might make lenders whole later on - was unveiled Wednesday in Washington. The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) is urging the federal savings and loans lenders under its authority to refinance loans by reducing mortgage balances to the current market values of the homes. Thanks to falling home prices, many homeowners are now stuck with mortgages that are actually worth more than the houses themselves. But instead of having lenders forgive the difference between the old mortgage and a house's current resale value, called a short sale, the OTS advises that lenders issue a warrant or "negative amortization certificate" for the difference. If a home regains its market value and is then sold, lenders have first claims to the profits.
Foreclosure Prevention Plan Under Attack
Two bills before Congress would give bankruptcy court judges the authority to reduce mortgage debt, which could save thousands of borrowers from foreclosure. Lenders are furious at the prospect of having judges seize control of their mortgage portfolios. Community and consumer advocates argue that such a move makes sense amid the current mortgage crisis. Both the Emergency Home Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act of 2007 and the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 aim to provide relief for some home owners in bankruptcy. Only borrowers who live in their homes and hold subprime or non-traditional mortgages, like interest-only loans, would be eligible.
How Falling Home Prices Imperil The U.S. Economy
America's economy confronts a vicious cycle of falling home prices and rising foreclosures, and the challenge for policymakers is how – and how much – to intervene. Top economic officials are already taking some steps that are aimed, at least in part, at slowing the erosion of home prices. The Treasury has been prodding banks to rewrite the terms of loans rather than foreclose on mortgage holders who are in default. One goal is to help ordinary Americans keep their homes and to keep neighborhoods from deteriorating.
Online Records Raise Concerns
Bucks County’s electronic records system is a double-edged sword, say those who make their living looking up deeds, mortgages and other real estate records. On one hand, the system, called Landex, allows searchers to quickly and easily view digital versions of original documents — for free — from a bank of computers in the recorder of deed’s office at the courthouse.But for a small fee, anyone with an Internet connection can look up the same documents from anywhere in the world
How Bad Will the Mortgage Crisis Get?
The credit markets are seizing up and the uncertainty recently drove up short-term interest rates for municipalities and some rock solid institutions such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to 20%. And now even so-called prime borrowers, the ones who were properly vetted, are being sucked into defaults on their mortgages. Yet it's still a relatively small number of institutions and individuals getting hurt by this not-yet-a-recession. So what's the worst that could happen?
HUD Called on to Admit Error: Policy to Give Mortgage Brokers Bonuses Said to Be Illegal
Some Michigan mortgage experts want the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to admit it erred when it launched an incentive program for real estate brokers that possibly violated its own consumer protection act. Last week, HUD stopped the 3-month-old program, which offered $500 bonuses to real estate brokers who got HUD home buyers into Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loans, after Bloomfield Hills attorney Howard Lax contacted HUD and claimed the program was an illegal kickback.
Home Starts Stay Near 1991 Lows
U.S. housing starts remained near their lowest level since 1991 in January, a sign the deepest real-estate recession in a quarter century will continue to weigh on the economy this year. Projecting January figures through 2008, work began on an annual rate of 1.012 million homes, up 0.8% from December, the Commerce Department said Wednesday in Washington. But building permits, an indication of future construction, fell 3% to a 1.048-million rate. A glut of unsold homes, mounting foreclosures and falling prices signal the housing slump will continue to detract from overall economic growth, setting the stage for more interest-rate cuts. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke last week said the Fed was ready to act in a timely manner to keep the expansion from faltering.
Not That Many Will Benefit From Higher Conforming Mortgage Limits
Only 15 counties in the U.S. have a median house price high enough to qualify for the temporary increase in the maximum loan limits called for in the economic stimulus package, an indication that the big jump may not help as many home buyers and refinancers as originally expected.The National Association of Home Builders had hoped that as many as 29 metropolitan areas would qualify for the new $729,725 ceiling. But according to a staff member at the group's convention in Orlando last week, it now appears that less than 10 will make it.
Subprime Loans Defaulting Even Before Resets
For months, we've fretted about the Armageddon that will hit when subprime adjustable rate mortgages start resetting to much higher interest rates. What's happening is even worse: Many of these loans are defaulting well before their rates increase. Defaults for subprime loans issued in 2007 - none of which have reset yet - hit 11.2 percent in November. That represents perhaps 300,000 households, and is twice the default rate that 2006 loans had 10 months after being issued, according to Friedman, Billings Ramsey analyst Michael Youngblood.
Mortgage Delay Rules Approved By Alliance
All members of the Hope Now alliance of mortgage lenders and servicers have agreed to adopt guidelines for a 30-day "pause" in foreclosure proceedings to help seriously delinquent borrowers modify their mortgage terms, the alliance and the Treasury said Tuesday. The move expands an initiative announced last week by the top six mortgage lenders to dozens of other companies that represent about 90% of the sub-prime mortgage market and nearly 70% of the entire mortgage market, the Treasury said. The initiative, called Project Lifeline, offers homeowners who have missed three months of mortgage payments a 30-day delay in foreclosure proceedings if they seek help in working out new, more affordable loan terms.
Credit Suisse Jolts Investors with $2.8 Billion Write-down
Credit Suisse on Tuesday announced new write-downs of $2.8 billion that cut $1 billion from its profit and said it had suspended some traders for making errors in valuing investments. The announcement jolted investors just a week after Credit Suisse had earned praise from analysts for the quality of its risk management. In afternoon trading on the Swiss Stock Exchange, the bank's shares slid 4.65 Swiss francs, or 8.1 percent, to 52.10 francs, or $47.62.
Wall St. May Pay Big for Real-estate Bust
Regulators are trying to punish Wall Street for mortgage-finance practices that expanded homeownership and spread risk among a host of new players — but also may have duped borrowers and investors who supplied cash to fuel a housing boom that's turned bust. A handful of state securities regulators and a couple of foreclosure-blighted cities have fired the opening shots with lawsuits trying to prove investment banks and big lenders are guilty of more than just bad business decisions and failing to foresee looming mortgage troubles.
Regulators' Cases Target Firms' Roles in Mortgages
State regulators and cities that have filed cases or disclosed investigations targeting Wall Street firms' roles in the subprime mortgage market...
Study: Subprime Mortgage Lawsuits Outpacing Savings & Loan Crisis
The number of subprime-related lawsuits filed in federal courts is dramatically outpacing the savings and loan litigation of the early 1990s. That's accordng to a study by Chicago-based Navigant Consulting, Inc. According to the Navigant study, the number of subprime-related cases filed in 2007 already equals half of the total 559 S&L cases handled by the Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC) over a multiple-year period. The subprime numbers represent only federal court filings.
Mortgage Crisis Relief Bill in California Would Ease ‘Short Sale’ Tax Hit
Homeowners forced to sell their property for less than they paid for it would escape a tax hit under legislation sponsored by state Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden. Machado’s bill passed the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee on Wednesday, the first of several tests for the legislation that if passed could help an estimated 8,300 homeowners in San Joaquin County and other places hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
Housing Market Downturn is Hurting Small Financial Firms
Some of Stockton's commercial office corridors look grim these days as small financial and real estate services firms fall prey to the housing-industry meltdown and vacate the premises. Like so many small-business owners, Shaheem Ali had a dream to grow his enterprise and see it prosper, adding employees and expanding throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley. As a mortgage banker, his goal was to reach the point of funding $40 million in loan transactions each month.
FHA Loans Come to Rescue of Home Buyers
For Monica Buchman, the FHA loan was a lifesaver.The Magnolia resident was drowning in bills and wanted to refinance, but with home prices declining, her consolidated debt totaled almost as much as her home was worth. But the quick refinancings and easy credit of years past were drying up -- brokers were offering loans with rates of 10 percent or more, and Buchman knew she wouldn't be able to make it without a better rate.
New Loan Rates Up in The Air for Those Trying to Refinance
The economic stimulus bill that President Bush signed Wednesday has plunged people who are trying to buy or refinance an expensive home into jumbo limbo. The bill raises the maximum mortgage that can be purchased by guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Today that limit is $417,000 across the continental United States. Anything below that limit is called a conforming loan; anything above it is a jumbo.
Housing Woes Run Much Deeper than we Realize
Subprime loans were certainly part of the problem, but they are a symptom of a deeper issue. What's happening in the market today is not the bursting of a five-year bubble but the bursting of a 40-year bubble and the failure of the mortgage loan system to meet the needs of the marketplace. The truth is that subprime lenders, by responding to demand, were the finger in the dike for the whole housing market. The real problem is affordability and the incongruity between incomes and home pricing.
Mortgage Servicers Next Victim of Housing Crisis
The halcyon days of the U.S. housing boom were a veritable gravy train for companies in the business of collecting monthly mortgage payments from homeowners. All these so-called "mortgage servicers" had to do was process the monthly cash stream from borrowers, who generally paid on time, and forward the money to mortgage security investors, pocketing a percentage of each loan they handled. It was a highly automated, low-overhead and very profitable enterprise.
Opposition to New Real Estate Rules and Fees Grows
It seems that every day, another group voices concern over the proposed new real estate insurance fees and real estate regulations. The Coalition for Consumer Choice on Legal and Insurance Services in Real Estate Transactions is gravely concerned about the impacts the proposed Bill 152 regulations regarding transfers of title, and the related proposals by the Law Society of Upper Canada requiring two lawyers and two firms on a transfer of title, will have on the real estate market and consumers in Ontario.
Morgan Stanley Cuts 1,000 Mortgage Jobs
Morgan Stanley will slash 1,000 jobs, scale back its U.S. home-lending business and shut down a British mortgage unit as new management takes a hard look at the continued deterioration in mortgage markets. The cuts announced on Wednesday affect Morgan Stanley employees who generate home loans through brokers and other third parties, as well as bankers who packaged these loans into bonds. The bank declined to detail cuts for specific areas.
Americans Selling Homes See Prices Go Below Mortgage
Mary Kamanu paid $409,000 for a house in Folsom, California, she never imagined that three years later it would be worth about 20 percent less and she would have to pay the bank more than $80,000 just to sell the place. ``I'm completely upside-down on my mortgage, like a lot of people,'' said Kamanu, who wants to move 12 miles away to live with her fiancé in a suburb of Sacramento. "I know I'm going to have to come up with a big chunk of change."
Ailing Economy Gets Its Booster Shot
The stimulus law signed by President Bush on Wednesday provides what he called a "booster shot" to the economy, but the medicine might not be strong enough to ward off a recession. The $168 billion package of personal tax rebates and business tax cuts will likely help shore up consumer spending later this year, economists say. That could minimize the pain of a possible downturn. But it won't resolve longer-term issues bedeviling the economy, such as a free fall in home sales and prices and a credit crunch that has persisted despite aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate cuts.
Bush, Lenders Propose 30 Extra Days to Reach
Some homeowners threatened with foreclosure could get a 30-day reprieve under an arrangement that the Bush administration has worked out with major mortgage lenders. In the program, announced Tuesday, six of the nation's largest financial institutions said they will begin contacting homeowners who are 90 or more days overdue on their monthly mortgage payments. The homeowners will be given the opportunity to put the foreclosure process on hold for 30 days while the lenders look for ways to make the mortgages more affordable.
Title Insurers Face Antitrust Lawsuits in New York
A group of title insurance companies, including Fidelity National Financial Inc (FNF.N) and LandAmerica Financial Group Inc (LFG.N), face antitrust suits alleging they set artificially high rates in New York . The lawsuit alleges that, while New York law allows these companies to set title insurance rates collectively through a rate setting organization, the defendants had acted "outside of this authority," according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn earlier this month.
Mortgage Relief Plan Leaves Lots of Pain
A new, highly touted state program designed to aid first-time homeowners facing exploding mortgage costs has such strict standards that the vast majority of those seeking help don't qualify — a stark reality for financially troubled Connecticut residents looking for a mortgage bailout. More than 1,000 homeowners have flooded the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority with calls as they sought to qualify for the new loans, which were announced in November and funded by $50 million in state bond money.
Suit Claims Title Insurers Fixed Prices
First American Corp. of Santa Ana, the largest U.S. title insurer ranked by revenue, and 13 other insurers have been sued by homeowners in New York over claims that they fixed prices. The title insurers fixed prices in New York at rates about 67% higher than the U.S. average, says a class-action complaint filed Feb. 1 in federal court in Central Islip, N.Y. The Title Insurance Rates Service Assn., or TIRSA, a group of state title insurers, functions as a cartel, the suit alleges.
Feds to Unveil New Mortgage-help Plan
At-risk borrowers with all types of mortgages, not just high-cost subprime loans, could be eligible for help under a new plan involving six big home lenders. The plan, called Project Lifeline, will be announced Tuesday by the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said a person familiar with the plan who confirmed earlier news reports about the plan but spoke on condition of anonymity because it had not yet been made public. Against a backdrop of surging defaults and administration officials' prodding of the mortgage industry, the plan will allow seriously overdue homeowners to suspend foreclosures for 30 days while lenders try to work out more affordable loan terms.
Fraud Case Ruins Real Estate Lawyer, Attorney Says
When Atlanta attorney R. Joseph Costanzo Jr. pleaded guilty to bank fraud this month, he did so as “a broken man,” Costanzo's attorney said. The lawyer's prosecution by federal authorities for his role as a real estate closing attorney in a mortgage fraud ring left him “financially devastated … his career as an attorney over, medically and mentally severely impaired, and greatly suffering shame and remorse,” said his attorney, Edward T.M. Garland. It also garnered Costanzo 41 months in federal prison and an order to pay jointly with his co-defendants more than $7.8 million in restitution to banking, insurance and investment firms—among them Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage.
Title Insurance Overcharge Suit Advances
A lawsuit that alleges lender Ameriquest Mortgage overcharged for title insurance on home refinancings can proceed as a class action, a state judge ruled. Coral Gables lawyer Richard Bennett, who filed the lawsuit in Pinellas County in 2006, estimates the class involves about 66,000 Floridians who refinanced their homes with Ameriquest from May 19, 2002 through 2006. Instead of charging the lower ''reissue rate'' for title insurance on refinancings, the suit claims, Ameriquest collected the higher rate charged on home purchases.
Scrutiny Tightens for Title Insurers
The collapse of the housing boom is bringing harsh new scrutiny to the $17 billion title-insurance business, including allegations that insurers colluded illegally and paid kickbacks to agents or brokers to get business. In the latest legal challenge, an antitrust suit filed Feb. 1 in federal court in Brooklyn accuses the four firms that dominate title insurance nationwide of illegally fixing prices in New York state. Although insurance firms have limited immunity from antitrust claims because state regulators approve their rates, the suit accuses title firms of concealing improper costs underlying their rate requests.
Lenders Have Foreclosure Plan: Sources
Six of the largest U.S. mortgage lenders on Tuesday will announce a program to identify seriously delinquent borrowers and halt any foreclosure process while they try to work out a new payment scheme, sources familiar with the plan said on Monday. The lenders will unite under the program, dubbed "Project Lifeline," to identify borrowers more than 90 days delinquent and stall any foreclosure proceedings while they try to develop new loan terms, the sources told Reuters.
Old Republic's Outlook Cut to Negative - Moody's
Moody's Investors Service said it cut its outlook on Old Republic International Corp to negative from stable, reflecting financial stress at its mortgage insurance unit, Republic Mortgage Insurance Co. Moody's affirmed the 'Aa2' insurance financial strength (IFS) ratings of Old Republic's (ORI) lead property and casualty insurance companies with a stable outlook and the 'A1' IFS rating of its lead title insurance companies.
Recession Looks More Certain, But it May Be Short
After another round of troubling economic reports, a growing number of analysts are downgrading forecasts to show that the United States has slipped into recession. Now they are asking the question: How long will it last. For now, many economists forecasting a recession expect it to be short and mild, running through the first half of the year. The Federal Reserve's deep interest rate cuts and a plan approved last week by Congress to put billions of dollars in rebates in consumers' pockets should work their way into the economy by the second half of the year. That will fuel a rebound, economists said.
The Domino Effect: Crime, Lower Home Values Often Follow Foreclosures in Areas Hit Hardest By Mortgage Mess.
A Fresno's Bee analysis of housing data show that the most vulnerable neighborhoods have been hit hardest by the mortgage crisis, Already there are signs that a torrent of foreclosures could trigger more crime and decay in the city's struggling core.Foreclosures rose rapidly in Fresno County in 2007, with lenders repossessing more than 1,500 properties -- a 405% increase from the previous year, according to an analysis of data provided by RealtyTrac, a foreclosure information company.
Title Insurance Buying Tips
If you've ever purchased title insurance, chances are you went with the company recommended by your real estate agent. But by shopping around, you might have been able to save yourself hundreds of dollars. Don't be surprised, however, if you feel pressured to go with a specific title company. State authorities have repeatedly sanctioned title insurers for giving illegal gifts and kickbacks to real estate agents, lenders and builders to steer business their way.
Digging for Clues to Mineral Rights
It's often said a home is most people's biggest investment. So why can't real estate agents and title companies tell prospective homebuyers whether mineral rights are part of the deal? As more homeowners sign deals to lease their mineral rights to drilling companies for thousands of dollars upfront, more buyers in the housing market are asking whether mineral ownership is a part of the deal. But finding out whether mineral rights are included in a sale isn't easy
The Subprime Mortgage Mess: 5 Myths Put to Rest
Sold to the American consumer as a chance for marginal borrowers to buy into the dream of home ownership, "subprime" mortgages are becoming the catalyst for an expected 1 million-plus foreclosures annually for the next few years. Potential losses of $300 billion for homeowners and lenders -- and an undetermined amount of punishment to a $57 trillion U.S. financial system -- stalk global securities markets and seem poised to tip the nation into economic recession.
Ease Capital Requirements for Fannie?
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senators on Thursday said Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) should do more to help struggling homeowners -- an expanded role that might win them looser capital restraints.Amid the worst housing crisis in a generation, pressures are mounting for an expanded role by the two mortgage finance companies, even as lawmakers also call for a tightening of the reins on them in the wake of multibillion-dollar accounting scandals. At a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, its chairman, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said the two companies need to do more to help homeowners with high-priced loans refinance into more affordable mortgages. Lenders also stand to benefit from the fees generated by this increased activity.
Manager Fears Housing Will Worsen By Default
When you think of bond fund managers, you might imagine them poring over economic indicators all day so they can figure out where the economy is headed and what bonds to buy. But when I called TCW Group Chief Investment Officer Jeffrey Gundlach this week, he had his head in a very different place. Instead of peeking into the future with esoteric government data, he was fixated -- and agitated -- about information anyone could interpret. "Listen to this," he said as he read a headline from a CNNMoney.com article: "Homeowners: Can't pay? Just walk away."
New Definition of Jumbo Loans May Help Few
As Congress moves to lower borrowing costs on so-called jumbo mortgages, lending experts caution that the benefits to borrowers may be limited. Jumbo mortgages, or loans greater than $417,000, normally carry interest rates of about 0.25 percentage point above smaller, so-called conforming mortgages. But the current credit crisis and turmoil in the mortgage-securities markets have widened this premium to as much as a full percentage point, pushing up borrowing costs for people in higher-priced homes. As part of a broader economic-stimulus package, lawmakers are considering allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase or guarantee mortgages larger than $417,000, the current cutoff for conforming loans. That in turn is expected to encourage lenders to charge lower rates on the larger loans, because the loans would have the implicit backing of the federal government. The pending legislation would temporarily boost the cap for Fannie and Freddie to as much as $729,750, especially in places like California and along the East Coast where housing prices are much higher than the national average. The new caps would be based on the median home price in certain areas, rather than the current flat national cap.
Senators Nudge Fannie, Freddie
Senators yesterday said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should do more to help struggling homeowners — an expanded role that might win them looser capital restraints. Amid the worst housing crisis in a generation, pressures are mounting for an expanded role by the two mortgage finance companies, even as lawmakers also call for a tightening of the reins on them in the wake of multibillion-dollar accounting scandals.
Home Equity Loan Defaults Soar
One of the last sources of ready cash for homeowners looking to get money from their house appears to be shutting down and the results aren't likely to be pretty for the economy. Last week, buried deep in the ugly details of Countrywide Financial Corp.'s earnings release, was the news that its $32.4 billion portfolio of prime HELOCs - home equity lines of credit - had begun to rapidly deteriorate. The reeling Calabasas, Ca.-lender was forced to take a $704 million charge related to homeowners' inability to pay back equity they extracted from their homes.
Fed Says Bank Loan Standards Now Tighter
Banks in the United States tightened their lending standards and terms for businesses and consumers alike amid a deteriorating economic outlook, a Federal Reserve survey showed on Monday.The Fed's January senior loan officer survey, which policy-makers had in rough form when they decided to lower benchmark interest rates by a half-percentage point last week, showed also that demand for loans weakened among businesses and households over the last three months.
Fannie, Freddie sitting pretty?
The housing crisis has brought little but storm clouds to the mortgage financing industry, but two chastised housing lenders could find a silver lining: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgage finance industry and the White House had appeared close to finally pushing through a series of reforms that would bring closer scrutiny to the two federally chartered housing lenders who have suffered a series of accounting scandals.
Commonwealth Land Title Hit with Class Action Suit
A Pennsylvania attorney issued a statement this week saying he's pleased with a judge's decision to turn a case against Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co. into a filing that is now eligible for class action legal status. Attorney Steven Schwartz with the law firm of Chimicles & Tikellis LLP, filed the case on behalf of a homeowner in Pennsylvania, who claims the title insurance underwriter violated state consumer protection laws by only allowing the plaintiff a discount eligible to him under Pennsylvania's guidelines for reissue rates on title policies. He claims, during this time, the title company disregarded another state requirement that would have meant an additional discount for the plaintiff under state stipulations regarding refinance rates on title policies.
Dream Homes Become Nightmares for Buyers When Builders File for Bankruptcy
Builder bankruptcies can halt or delay construction, meaning buyers can’t move in, customers stand to lose thousands in deposit money and consumers get stuck in a contract with no house.
Moody's May Cut A$83 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Bonds
Moody's Investors Service may cut the ratings on A$83 billion ($75 billion) of Australian mortgage- backed bonds linked to PMI Group Inc. on concern the U.S. home- loan insurer will find it harder to pay claims.
Home Equity Loan Defaults Soar
One of the last sources of ready cash for homeowners looking to get money from their house appears to be shutting down and the results aren't likely to be pretty for the economy. Last week, buried deep in the ugly details of Countrywide Financial Corp.'s earnings release, was the news that its $32.4 billion portfolio of prime HELOCs - home equity lines of credit - had begun to rapidly deteriorate. The reeling Calabasas, Ca.-lender was forced to take a $704 million charge related to homeowners' inability to pay back equity they extracted from their homes.
Bond Guru Bill Gross on the Housing Crisis
Bill Gross, founder and chief investment officer of PIMCO, the world's largest family of bond funds with $746 billion in assets under management, believes that without government intervention, home prices could drop as much as 20 percent over the next two years. U.S. News spoke with Gross about what he thinks the government should do to prevent such losses. Excerpts: Why do you think housing prices are declining? The simplest explanation is because they went up too much.... It's hard for a home to go down in price significantly unless there's been a bubble. The reason for a significant bubble is not only low interest rates back in the 2003-2004 time period but a significant amount of near-fraudulent behavior in the mortgage market with no-documentation loans and—[as] I call them—"funny money" mortgages. Not all of them are fraudulent, but there certainly was an egregious overreach in terms of the private marketplace that made it possible for anyone and everyone to buy a home.
New $20B Subprime Bailout on The Table
A proposal to bail out subprime mortgage borrowers who are at risk of foreclosure was floated at a Senate Banking Committee hearing Thursday. Senator Chris Dodd, the committee chair, said he is working to create a Home Ownership Preservation Corporation, which would purchase mortgage securities that are backed by at-risk, subprime loans from lenders and investors.
Class Action Granted in Ohio Case Against Title Firm
A federal judge in Toledo granted class-action status yesterday in a lawsuit that could result in refunds for tens of thousands of Ohio homeowners who may have been overcharged for title insurance. A lawyer for defendant Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., which is among the nation's largest issuers of policies to protect buyers and lenders from hidden liens and other deed problems, declined to comment on the development.
Florida Eyes Countrywide's Practices
Countrywide Financial Corp., the nation's largest mortgage lender, is finding itself under increasing scrutiny by shareholders and state governments.Florida's attorney general is the latest to say he's eager to examine the way Countrywide does business and is investigating the company for possible unfair and deceptive business practices."We've had a number of complaints about Countrywide, as well as other mortgage companies in the subprime arena," the state's Attorney General Bill McCollum said Thursday.
FBI Director: Mortgage Fraud Substantial
FBI Director Robert Mueller said Thursday that the agency is committed to investigating and prosecuting companies involved in mortgage fraud and other violations in connection with home loans made to risky borrowers.Mueller said probes were being conducted across the country, including in Hawaii, where he stopped on his way back from a trip through Asia."There is not a state that does not have some investigation," he told reporters at the FBI office in Honolulu. "It is a substantial problem but we've been through problems like this in the past."
Most Middle Class Still Can't Buy a House
Despite the housing slump, most middle income workers still don't earn enough to buy a median-priced home in their hometowns, according to the Center for Housing Policy.The center, an arm of the affordable housing advocacy group of the National Housing Conference (NHC), compared housing costs in 201 metro areas with the median wages in those areas for 60 major vocations, such as police, firemen and teachers.
S&P Cuts, May Cut Up to $534 Billion of Subprime Bonds
Standard & Poor's on Wednesday said it cut or may cut its ratings on $270 billion worth of U.S. mortgage-backed securities while putting $264 billion of collateralized debt obligations on watch for a possible downgrade. The ratings action affects 6,389 classes of U.S. residential mortgage-backed securities backed by first-lien subprime loans and 1,953 ratings from 572 global CDOs backed by asset-backed securities and other CDOs.
Homeowners Late on Loans Often Don't Seek Help
With a record number of new foreclosures hitting neighborhoods across the country, a surprising 58% of delinquent homeowners don't know their lenders may offer ways to help them keep their homes, and 56% don't know that free counseling exists to help them, a survey being released Thursday found. The findings highlight the challenges for the mortgage industry as it tries to stem financial and social upheaval from the 2 million foreclosures expected this year.
Fed Cuts Interest Rate - 2nd Time in 8 Days
The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark short-term interest rate Wednesday, just eight days after it took unprecedented action to lower borrowing costs. Wednesday's widely expected 0.5 percentage point reduction in the federal funds rate - the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans - marked the latest move in a concerted push by the nation's central bank to ease housing market pain, restore Wall Street confidence and head off recession.
Chicago Title raises ante vs. Steuks
MANCHESTER – A title insurer which in August sued an Exeter man, charging he took money intended for third parties to keep his real-estate business afloat, has raised its loss estimate from $600,000 to as much as $1.7 million, court papers reveal. Florida-based Chicago Title Insurance Co. now alleges that a forensic audit of now-closed Warranty Title Co. Inc.'s financial records has found at least $1.3 million of escrow monies was misappropriated.
House Oks $146B Economic Aid Bill
The House voted 385 to 35 Tuesday to approve an estimated $146 billion stimulus package aimed at countering the slowdown in economic growth. The legislation, which House leaders brokered last week after intensive talks with the Bush administration, faces an uphill battle in the Senate. A number of senators have said they want to amend the plan. Both chambers have sent out flares indicating there will be hard-headed negotiating ahead.
Fed Endorses Home Mortgage Protections
The Federal Reserve moved Tuesday to protect home buyers from dubious lending practices, its most sweeping response to a mortgage meltdown that has forced record numbers of people from their homes. The Fed has been under attack for not doing more to stem the crisis as hundreds of thousands of people lost the roof over their head. The situation raised the odds the country will fall into recession, unhinged Wall Street, racked up multibillion losses for financial companies and resulted in political finger-pointing over who was to blame. The proposed rules, endorsed by the Federal Reserve Board in a 5-0 vote, would crack down on a range of shady lending practices that has burned many of the nation's riskiest "subprime" borrowers -- those with spotty credit or low incomes -- who have been hardest hit by the housing and credit debacles. The rules also would curtail misleading ads for many types of mortgages and bolster financial disclosures to borrowers.
Home Ownership in Record Plunge
The housing and mortgage meltdown caused the biggest one-year drop in the rate of homeownership on record, according to government figures released Tuesday. The decline, while expected, is yet another indication of the housing market's sudden and dramatic turn. The Census Bureau report showed that home owners accounted for 67.8% of occupied homes in the fourth quarter, down 1.1 points from a year earlier. It's the largest year-over-year drop recorded in the report.
FBI Probes 14 Companies Over Home Loans
The FBI on Tuesday said it is investigating 14 companies for possible accounting fraud, insider trading or other violations in connection with home loans made to risky borrowers. Agency officials did not identify the companies under investigation but said the wide-ranging probe, which began in spring 2007, involves companies across the financial services industry, from mortgage lenders to investment banks that bundle home loans into securities sold to investors.
New Home Sales Fall to Lowest Level in 27 Years; Industry Expert Predicts Another 13% Slide for 2008
New home sales in the United States plunged by 26.4% last year, the biggest drop in 27 years, according to data released Monday. The U.S. Commerce Department reported that 774,000 new homes were sold in 2007, representing the largest annual decline since a 23.1% fall in 1980. That fall in sales amounts to an annual pace of 604,000, the Commerce Department said Monday.
Housing Market's Freeze Deepens-new-home Sales Off 41% From Year Earlier
The swooning housing market lost steam again last month, continuing the worst downturn in new-home sales, starts and prices since the Great Depression. About 604,000 new houses sold in December, a 4.7 percent drop from November and a 40.7 percent decline from the end of 2006, according to a report Monday from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. December sale prices, meanwhile, fell about 10 percent from a year earlier.
Jumbo Loans Spell Relief
With home sales and prices dropping at record rates, economists say the most potent cure for the economy in the stimulus package is a provision lifting the limits on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so they can buy jumbo housing loans up to $729,000. The mortgage relief could help staunch the hemorrhaging in high-priced housing markets like the Washington area, California and New York, where buyers have had difficulty getting loans and are paying interest rates a full percentage point higher than the 5.5 percent average rate on smaller loans backed by the government enterprises, according to BankRate.com.
Foreclosures Up 75% in 2007
The number of foreclosures soared in 2007, with 405,000 households losing their home, according to a report released Tuesday. Total foreclosure filings soared 97% in December alone compared with December of 2006, according to RealtyTrac, an online seller of foreclosure properties. For the year, total filings - which include default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions - grew 75%.
U.S. New-Home Sales Probably Held at a 12-Year Low
Purchases of new homes in the U.S. probably remained at a 12-year low in December, capping the biggest annual decline in at least four decades, economists said before a government report today. Sales were unchanged last month from the annual pace of 647,000 in November, the lowest in 12 years, according to the median of 62 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. For all of 2007, purchases probably dropped by the most since records began in 1963.
Insurers to Fight Credit Scoring Ban on Colo. House Floor
Legislation that would prohibit insurers' use of credit information narrowly advanced out of the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee Thursday on a 6-5 vote. According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the insurance industry will oppose the measure when it reaches the House floor for consideration.The legislation (HB 1143) prohibits property/casualty underwriters from using credit scoring for the acceptance, denial, renewal, or rating of potential insureds.
Suit Targets Loan Registry -industry Service Holds Mortgages
You might expect national home-loan giants Wells Fargo or Countrywide to top the list. But it is a mysterious company called MERS that routinely pops up in county property records around the Twin Cities as the owner of failing mortgage loans. Trouble is, MERS doesn't own the loans. Not a lender or loan servicer, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. is a electronic loan record-keeping service owned by Vienna, Va.-based Merscorp Inc. The industry-backed registry was aimed at tracking ownership of America's home loans as they sailed through the securitization process, repeatedly changing hands between lenders, banks, servicers and investors.
Big loans could get cheaper
The economic stimulus plan worked out Thursday in Washington would provide nearly a year of cheaper loans for Californians buying or refinancing higher-cost homes, and the news elicited jubilation in the beleaguered housing and mortgage industries.Leaders of the House of Representatives and the White House agreed that the size of loans that can be purchased by government-sponsored mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be increased sharply for a year from the current cutoff of $417,000. The plan also would nearly double the size of loans insurable by the Federal Housing Administration, from $367,000 to $729,750.
Proposed Mortgage Plan Could Aid Markets
A component of the government's tentative economic stimulus package announced Thursday would give an immediate lift to buyers and sellers in higher-priced housing markets.The package agreed upon by Democratic and Republican members of the House would allow government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy mortgages up to 75 percent more expensive than the current $417,000 limit. The Senate and White House still must sign off on the proposed stimulus plan, which also includes tax rebates for Americans.
Mortgage Industry Cheers Stimulus Proposal
Rates on jumbo loans got a lot more expensive after last summer's credit crunch, and the mortgage and real-estate industries have been calling for an increase to the conforming loan limit as a way to help more borrowers obtain favorable mortgage rates. On Thursday, they had reason to believe their wish would be granted when a proposed economic stimulus plan included a new conforming loan cap.
State Should Reconsider Title Insurance Reform
Last September, we encouraged Gov. Bill Richardson to take the advice of an assorted group of experts and support a bill that would make title insurance in New Mexico more competitive, and therefore more affordable. So we were disappointed to learn earlier this week that Richardson has decided not to put the issue on the call for lawmakers to consider this legislative session, despite being urged to do so by the Public Regulation Commission, the attorney general and the public policy group Think New Mexico.
Banks, New York Regulator Meet on Bond Insurer Rescue
New York regulators are pushing the biggest U.S. financial institutions to rescue bond insurers, led by MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc., and avert credit- rating downgrades that may further disrupt financial markets. Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo, who met with industry executives yesterday, is trying to bolster the bond insurers' ratings with help from banks and securities firms that posted $133 billion of writedowns and credit losses tied to mortgage securities. He's received encouragement from Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner, said a person with knowledge of the matter.
N.C. Supreme Court Considers Lawsuit Over Hidden Credit Insurance Costs
More than 800 borrowers in North Carolina say Bank of America owes them money because a company it oversaw made them home mortgage loans with illegal, hidden credit insurance. For Bank of America and the borrowers, there is much more at stake than money. Experts say the case is about what's more important in North Carolina: Protecting consumers or protecting businesses.The fight has gone to the N.C. Supreme Court, which could issue a ruling as early as Friday.
Fannie Faces Trouble From Mortgage Insurers
As the largest purchaser of U.S. mortgages, Fannie Mae provides an essential backstop to the housing market. The government-sponsored entity, like its brother Freddie Mac, purchases mostly standard 80% loan-to-value mortgages -- those for which the homebuyer puts down 20% equity. The private mortgage insurance industry is under severe pressure from rising delinquencies and mounting losses. Now questions are swirling about how a potential blow-up in that sector will affect Fannie Mae.
Ambac Reports Loss, Talks With `Potential Parties'
-- Ambac Financial Group Inc., the first bond insurer to lose its AAA credit rating because of subprime mortgages, is considering ``strategic alternatives'' after posting its biggest-ever loss. The shares jumped 29 percent on optimism the company may be sold. The second-largest bond insurer posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $3.26 billion, or $31.85 a share, after writing down the value of credit-derivatives tied to loans made to homeowners with poor credit by $5.21 billion, according to a statement by the company.
Ever-popular Florida Finds Itself Becoming Less Popular
CAPE CORAL, Fla. — When Eric Feichthaler became mayor three years ago, this town was booming. The city issued 800 permits that month to build single-family homes and traffic at the local moving company was mostly inbound. Those days are over. Last month, the city issued just nine permits for single-family homes. Callers to Royal Palm Movers are more likely to ask about outbound trucks. Even more likely, they are asking for a job.
First American Placed on Negative Ratings Watch
Fitch Ratings placed The First American Corp. on negative ratings watch Friday after seeing the company's pre-announced fourth-quarter earnings. Fitch said the company's title insurance segment would be negatively impacted by the mortgage industry's ongoing woes. Santa Ana-based First American (NYSE: FAF) is the country's largest provider of business information.
Bank of America, Wachovia Profits Plunge
Bank of America Corp. said Tuesday its fourth-quarter earnings fell by 95 percent and Wachovia Corp. reported its earnings tumbled 98 percent, with both banks citing the lending crisis. Net income at Bank of America declined to $268 million, or 5 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 from $5.26 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year ago.
New Alarm: Option-ARM 'liar's Loans'
The no-worries lending that inflated the housing bubble is resulting in a flood of soured option-ARM loans, adjustable-rate mortgages that allow borrowers to pay so little every month that their loan balances rise rather than fall, sometimes sharply.
If Everyone’s Finger-Pointing, Who’s to Blame?
Everyone wants to know who is to blame for the losses paining Wall Street and homeowners. The answer, it seems, is someone else.A wave of lawsuits is beginning to wash over the troubled mortgage market and the rest of the financial world. Homeowners are suing mortgage lenders. Mortgage lenders are suing Wall Street banks. Wall Street banks are suing loan specialists. And investors are suing everyone.
Report: More Foreclosures than Workouts
A mortgage industry trade group insisted Thursday that lenders are doing a better job of helping troubled borrowers than outside reports say they are. The Mortgage Bankers Association said in a new report that mortgage lenders modified 54,000 loans and established 183,000 repayment plans in the third quarter, a period in which there were 384,000 new foreclosures.
Kenneth Harney: Drop in Mortgage Rates Triggers January Refinancing Boom
Is it a refi renaissance? Or a fast-closing window of opportunity? Nobody can answer these questions for certain, but there's no doubt about this: Thanks to the lowest mortgage interest rates in a year and a half - an average 5.73 percent for conforming 30-year fixed rate loans and 5.21 percent for 15-year loans - nearly 60 percent of all new mortgage applications by mid-January were for refinancings, according to data compiled by the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Steeper than Expected Plunge in December Ends Year that Saw Homebuilding, Permits Post Declines Not Seen Since Past Recessions.
Housing starts and building permits plunged in December much more than expected, resulting in a full-year decline in new home construction that was the sharpest drop in 27 years. And there is little sign things will get better soon. According to government data released Thursday, the full-year total for building permits posted the biggest drop in 33 years.
Convicted Appraiser Exposes Toxic Debt Tie to Inflated Values
Home appraiser Julian ``Tony'' Perez conjured $7.5 million out of thin air in the first six months of 2001 by overvaluing 33 condominiums in the Atlanta area. Perez valued eight unfinished properties at the Deere Lofts development on April 2. Some were missing ceilings, cabinets or sinks. Each had been bought the previous week for $90,000 to $167,000. Perez said they were worth $177,000 to $330,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta.
Insurance department settles with title underwriters for $3.5M
The California Department of Insurance reached a $3.5 million settlement with three title underwriters within LandAmerica Financial Corporation Group Inc. over unfair rating practices. From the settlement with the Virginia corporation, $2 million will be refunded to consumers, department officials said in a Wednesday news release.
New Century Financial Neglected to Surrender 700,000 Documents in Bankruptcy Case
New Century Financial Corp. failed to hand over more than 700,000 documents to the investigator appointed by a bankruptcy court to probe suspected accounting wrongs, the company has disclosed.
State asks court to halt 500 foreclosures by Fremont
The Massachusetts attorney general asked a state court yesterday to block Fremont Investment & Loan from commencing foreclosure actions against 500 borrowers in Massachusetts. Attorney General Martha Coakley had previously filed suit in October accusing Fremont of predatory and unfair lending practices, and yesterday attorneys from her office told a Suffolk Superior Court judge the state wants to review each mortgage that is subject to foreclosure and try to stop proceedings on any loans they believe were made fraudulently.
First American Title seeks local artists
First American Title Insurance Company is seeking "new, young, old and in-between Fernley and Wadsworth artists," to display their work in the upcoming year. Since the title company moved an office to the Fernley area, each month an artist has been displayed in the business, through the company's Fernley Artist on Display series.
First American to Post 4Q Loss
First American Corp., which earlier announced plans to spin off its financial services segment, said Tuesday it will report a loss of up to $50 million in the fourth quarter on costs related to the California wildfires, investments write-downs and other charges. The company, which offers title insurance and real estate-related financial and information services, said quarterly revenue will total about $1.9 billion.
Citigroup slashes dividend on hefty quarterly loss
Citigroup Inc. secured $12.5 billion in much-needed cash and slashed its dividend as a huge drop in the value of its mortgage holdings sent it to its first quarterly loss in 16 years. The nation’s largest bank, which lost $9.83 billion in the last three months of 2007, said Tuesday the value of its mortgage portfolio fell by $18.1 billion and slashed its dividend to boost its cash levels.
Housing slowdown inspires gimmicks
Bill and Beth Scozzola bought a three-bedroom house in Gilroy at an auction in July, redid everything from the floors to the plumbing to the kitchen sink, then put it on the market in September for $599,950. They've had no offers. So this week they parked a brand new, $18,300 Honda Civic in front, and plan to give it to whoever buys their property.
Cleveland Sues US Banks
Likening their actions to those of organized crime syndicates, Cleveland's Mayor is suing 21 major banks and mortgage companies for the roles they played in the sub-prime mortgage crisis that devastated many neighborhoods in the city. The suit, filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, alleges that in pushing sub-prime mortgages in Cleveland, the companies created a public nuisance in violation of state law.
FBI: Housing Scams More Than Double
WASHINGTON — Federal mortgage fraud convictions have more than doubled in the past year, and the FBI expects a growth in foreclosure scams as the crisis over substandard, high-interest home loans escalates. Foreclosure rates for these mortgages, known as subprime loans, are at historic highs, according to surveys by the Mortgage Bankers Association and government records.
Housing Crisis Looms Larger in Campaign
The sour housing market is taking on added significance in the presidential race as candidates look for votes in foreclosure-heavy states such as Michigan, Nevada and Florida. With an eye toward Michigan and Nevada next week, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton mentioned the foreclosure crisis in her New Hampshire victory speech and was scheduled to talk about it with voters last night in Las Vegas. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee talks about it in a new television advertisement on the economy that he is airing in Michigan.
Consumer Confidence Sinks to Record Low:Buyers Cite Worries about Jobs, energy Costs and Foreclosures
Consumer confidence fell to an all-time low as worries about jobs, energy bills and home foreclosures darkened people’s feelings about the country’s economic health and their own financial well-being. According to the RBC Cash Index, confidence tumbled to a mark of 56.3 in early January. That compares with a reading of 65.9 in December — and a benchmark of 100 — and was the worst since the index began in 2002.
Bernanke Sees Bleak Outlook for U.S. Economy
Pesenting a bleak picture of a deteriorating U.S. economy, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has strongly suggested that the Fed would cut interest rates soon, perhaps by a large amount."The outlook for real activity in 2008 has worsened," Bernanke said Thursday after describing all the forces dragging down the economy. "We stand ready to take substantive additional actions as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks."
Bank of America to Buy Countrywide For $4 Billion
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) agreed to buy tottering mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC) in a $4 billion all-stock deal, a move that could build a bulwark against the mortgage-default crisis by protecting one of its biggest casualties from collapse.The deal would give Countrywide 0.1822 share of Bank of America for each share they own. Based on Thursday's closing prices, that values each share of Countrywide at $7.16 each, a 7.6% discount. Countrywide shares slumped in premarket trading to $6.60.
Relief Sought on Mortgage Accounting
The Mortgage Bankers Association has written to the Financial Accounting Standards Board asking for more flexibility in accounting for troubled mortgages to help prevent foreclosures. The MBA wants to be able to measure impairments of residential mortgage loans that are troubled debt restructurings under Financial Accounting Standard 5, "Accounting for Contingencies," rather than FAS 114, "Accounting for Creditors for Impairment of a Loan." The request follows on the heels of a letter that the MBA sent in December to FASB Chairman Robert Herz.
eMortages Offer Speed, Safety and Savings
In a mortgage market that is unpredictable at best, lenders can tap technology to lower processing costs and provide better pricing and service to borrowers. Going paperless – with all critical documentation created, executed, transferred, and stored electronically – has another benefit: helping the mortgage industry go “green.”
Freddie Mac's Strength Rating May Be Cut by Moody's
Freddie Mac, the U.S. mortgage company that reported its biggest loss last quarter, may be downgraded by Moody's Investors Service because the damage from loan defaults could be worse than the ratings company expected. Moody's said it may lower Freddie Mac's financial strength rating from A-, the second-highest grade. The McLean, Virginia- based company's top Aaa senior long-term debt rating and the Prime-1 rating for its commercial paper or short-term IOUs won't be cut, Moody's said.
Delaware Courts Lead Nation in Use of Electronic Filing
The Delaware Court of Chancery has expanded its required use of e-filing for legal documents in all new cases and the Superior Court of Delaware has expanded the required use of e-filing for legal documents in several key areas of litigation. These significant expansions -- together with use of e-filing for all civil, criminal and family cases in the Delaware Supreme Court -- establish Delaware courts as a leader in the use of e-filing technology.
Forecasters: No quick end to housing ills
It could be a long slump. Housing prices in Massachusetts and the nation likely will keep falling through next year and beyond, according to a growing chorus of economic forecasters. Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, told a Hartford audience yesterday that the current housing slump could be the longest in 50 years, increasing the risk of a broader economic downturn.
Citigroup combines some mortgage activities
Citigroup Inc, the largest U.S. bank, is creating a U.S. residential mortgage business combining origination, servicing and capital markets activities, according to an internal memo dated Tuesday. The business is intended to streamline Citigroup's mortgage lending and securitization businesses, merging activities previously split between the consumer banking and corporate and investment banking units. Mortgage lending at Citibank, CitiFinancial and Smith Barney branches will not be changed.
"Shortsighted" investment pros blew it: Fed's Poole Says
Investment professionals' "shortsightedness" led them to make fundamental errors that led to the mortgage crisis and credit meltdown, St. Louis Federal Reserve President William Poole said Wednesday. In a speech to financial planners, Poole detailed five key mistakes that borrowers and lenders made that have pushed the economy to the brink of recession.
Don't Tinker with Access to Records
Sometimes, what seems so easy is oh, so complicated. Take the ability of government to comply with public records requests. Compact discs have made it easier to assemble documents, since thousands can be compiled in this easy-to-use format. But just because it's easy doesn't mean it's being done quickly. For despite the ease with which public records requests can be handled, some local governments still fail to respond in a timely manner. That can't continue. These requests become more complicated when they grow larger, such as companies seeking up to a million documents.
AG Wants Superintendent To Reduce Title Insurance Rates
Attorney General Gary King has asked the state insurance superintendent to reduce title insurance rates by more than 11 percent, saying insurance companies have no incentive to compete on prices charged to customers. "This creates fertile ground for the possibility of inflated expenses, negatively affecting the rate charged to the consumer,'' King said Friday in a statement. "In fact, we think the current system has created reverse competition which is definitely not in the best interests of New Mexico homeowners."
North Texas Home Sales Fall 25% in December - Drop One of Biggest on Record
North Texas home sales plunged in December. The number of preowned homes sold fell by a quarter last month compared with December 2006, according to preliminary numbers released Monday.The median price of homes sold in the area also declined. "I would have expected sales to be off, but not by 25 percent," said David Brown, a housing analyst with Metrostudy Inc. "Wow! That's a big decline."
Steady Prices Predicted for Homes
Florida is the Forrest Gump of real estate. "In Florida, home prices shoot up like rockets and come down like feathers," economist Hank Fishkind said in a phone conference Monday to discuss the findings of his economic forecast for 2008-10.
Kenneth Harney: Despite Downturn, There are Signs of a Better 2008
Queen Elizabeth II once famously referred to her "annus horribilis" - a horrible year during which almost everything went badly, from royal family scandals to a fire that destroyed parts of Windsor Castle. The American housing market experienced its own form of annus horribilis in 2007 - a year when all the sins and excesses of the prior six years were visited upon nearly everyone in the system MORE »
It's Back to the Future to Fix Nation's Housing Scandal
Can it be as bad as some say — 2 million home foreclosures in 2008, the worst housing slump since the Great Depression? Will there be heartbreak for so many more families, boarded-up windows and abandonment ravaging vulnerable neighborhoods coast to coast?
Congress Has Done Little to Ease Mortgage Mess
With home prices falling and foreclosures rising last year, Congress held dozens of hearings into the nation's mortgage crisis.But it failed to pass any significant legislation to tighten lending regulations, crack down on predatory mortgage practices or provide help to families facing foreclosure.Although the House approved several mortgage-related bills, the legislative process stalled in the Senate.
California Leads Borrowing Cost Rise on Housing Slump
From Sacramento and Albany to Boston and Tallahassee, politicians in state capitals across the U.S. are wrestling with the biggest increase in borrowing costs in three years as they struggle to shore up budget deficits widening on the national housing slump. The extra yield investors require on 10-year bonds from California, Florida, Massachusetts and New York relative to benchmark tax-exempt rates doubled since July to the widest since at least 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. California's gap grew to 0.44 percentage point from 0.20 percentage point, adding $24 million in extra interest over 10 years for every $1 billion borrowed.
Credit Crisis Caused Rise In Class-Action Fraud Suits
Class-action lawsuits that accuse companies of defrauding investors increased more than 40 percent last year, fueled by troubled mortgage investments and a volatile stock market, according to a study released yesterday. Researchers said the rise reflected a surge in lawsuits in the last six months of the year, when the markets bounced on reports of tightened credit access and widening troubles with housing investments. Absent what the study's authors call "systemic shocks" from the credit crisis, the number of class-action cases filed last year would have fallen below recent averages.
Mortgage Insurers Decline As Mortgage Applications Survey Shows Little Hope for Recovery
Shares of mortgage insurers closed lower Thursday after a decline in an index measuring the volume of mortgage applications offered little hope for a recovery in the housing market. The Mortgage Bankers Association early Thursday reported applications for home loans sank 11.6 percent last week as fewer people sought money to buy homes or refinance existing debt. M ortgage insurers have been battered for months as sinking home prices choke mortgage credit quality.
Rating Subprime Investment Grade Made `Joke' of Credit Experts
As storm clouds gathered over New York on July 10, Standard & Poor's started a 10 a.m. conference call to discuss why the credit rating company was about to take its most dramatic action in more than two years. S&P analysts said they might cut ratings on $12 billion of the world's worst-performing subprime mortgage bonds, some of them less than a year after they had been given investment-grade designations. Not since 2005, when it downgraded Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., had S&P generated so much attention.
Americans late payers on most loans since 2001
Americans are falling further behind on consumer loans, with late payments rising to the highest level since the nation's last recession in 2001, data released Thursday show. In its quarterly study of consumer borrowing, the American Bankers Association said the percentage of loans at least 30 days past due rose to 2.44 percent in the July-to-September period from 2.27 percent in the previous quarter.
Bush on housing: Congress should do more
Criticized for not doing enough to stave off foreclosures, the White House seems prepped to put on a full-court press in dealing with the housing crisis. President Bush last weekend said he will push Congress this year "to act quickly" on proposals he supports.
Late Payments on Consumer Loans Rise
Late payments on a cluster of consumer loans, including those for autos, home improvement and certain home equity loans, climbed in the summer to their highest point since the country's last recession in 2001. The American Bankers Association reported Thursday that the delinquency rate on a composite of consumer loans increased to 2.44 percent in the July-to-September quarter. That was up sharply from 2.27 percent in the previous quarter and was the highest late-payment rate since the second quarter of 2001, when the economy was suffering through a recession.
National City to Close Wholesale-Mortgage Unit
Regional bank National City Corp. said yesterday it is closing its wholesale mortgage division, which offers mortgages through brokers, eliminating 900 jobs. The cuts affect about one-seventh of National City's 6,274-person mortgage business and bring total announced job losses to 3,400 since the middle of 2007, mostly in mortgages. The bank has a total of 32,804 employees.
L.A. mortgage Scam Cost Lenders $142 Million
Kathy Moore's loan application sailed through the mortgage desk at Lehman Bros. Bank. And little wonder. With sterling credit, deep pockets and two appraisals pegging the value of the Benedict Canyon house that she wanted to buy at $2.5 million, she seemed a perfect fit for a $1.47 million loan. Had the bankers taken a closer look, they might have learned that the home was worth just $775,000 and that Moore's borrowing power existed only on paper.
Shiller Sees 'Big Recession' in U.S.
Real estate values have fallen by $1 trillion, and that "could easily" triple in the next few years and drag the U.S. into a "big recession," Yale economist Robert Shiller told the Times of London. He said futures contracts point to losses of around 35% over the next 5 years in areas such as Florida, California and Las Vegas. The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index plummeted a record 6.7% vs. a year earlier in 10 major cities. The Dallas Fed's factory index fell to -19.1 in Dec. from -3.5 in Nov. Negative readings signal contraction. The prices paid index rose 2.1 points to 30.4, while the prices received index rose 2.6 points to 11.3, signaling higher inflation pressures. The hiring index fell to -7 from -0.9.