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State, CFPB win Judgment against Florida Loan Mod Scheme

A Florida law firm and its several affiliates which had already been shuttered by the State of Florida and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) were ordered on Friday to pay a total of $27.7 million in damages and penalties.

The judgment arose out of a lawsuit filed by CFPB and the Florida Attorney General against Hoffman Law Group (formerly Residential Litigation Group) and its operators Michael Harper, Benn Willcox, and attorney Marc Hoffman and affiliated companies operating as Nationwide Management Solutions, Legal Intake Solutions, File Intake Solutions, and BM Marketing Group, all based in North Palm Beach, Florida.  The Hoffman Law Group was allegedly set up to create the perception that consumers who were trying to save their homes from foreclosure would receive specialized legal help.  The other companies, which were run by Harper and Willcox, did marketing and support for the scheme.

 

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Realtors Confronting Problems of Structure, Leadership, and Technology

The Definitive Analysis of Negative Game Changers Emerging in Real Estate or D.A.N.G.E.R report prepared for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) by author Stefan Swanepoel is blunt in addressing vulnerabilities of the Association itself. Swanepoel is especially critical of NAR's leadership, a criticism he levels at state and local associations as well, but we will summarize his review of NAR as of more general interest.  A discussion of the reports methodology and its critique of brokers and agents is available here.

Swanepoel ranks the 10 dangers to NAR in order of magnitude but it is easier to discuss them in groups (that means that the numbers below won't all be in order) starting with some structural issues with the Association. 

1.      The Decision-Making Structure becomes a Hindrance (PTI=100)

2.      The Three-Tier Structure Liability (PIT=80.0)

 

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Mortgage Rates Microscopically Lower

Mortgage rates barely budged today.  Those that budged moved almost imperceptibly lower from yesterday's latest rate sheets.  In general, there was simply very little movement in underlying markets and lenders' rate sheets matched the tone.  

Ironically, Freddie Mac's weekly rate survey results came out this morning indicating higher rates.  Keep in mind that the Freddie survey receives most of it's responses early in the week and then reports on Thursday mornings.  That means that any changes in rates over the intervening days are not captured in the data.  In the current case, it's not that rates have moved significantly lower in the past few days, but more to do with the fact that last week's Freddie survey didn't capture the brunt of the rise in rates that occurred on Tuesday.

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Sellers’ Market Drives Pending Sales to 2006 Levels

April saw the highest number for pending sales in nearly nine years the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said today.  The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) increased 3.4 percent compared to a slightly upwardly revised March number, 108.7.  The Index was 14.0 percent above its level in the previous April representing the largest annual increase since it rose 15.1 percent year-over-year in September 2012.

NAR notes that it was the fourth straight month the PHSI, which is based on contracts signed for home purchases, had increased compared to the previous month and it has risen year-over-year for eight consecutive months.  In April it was at its highest level since May 2006 when it stood at 112.5.

 

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Mortgage Rates Still Not Fully Committed to Recovery

Mortgage rates moved sideways-to-slightly lower in most cases today, but only after underlying bond markets fought back from morning weakness.  Before that, most lenders were offering slightly higher rates than yesterday, though the differences would be seen in the form of closing costs as opposed to in the rate itself.  4.0% remains the most prevalent conventional 30yr fixed quote for top tier scenarios.  This has been a line in the sand, blocking rates from a more substantial recovery after they spiked in early May.

 

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Running Out of Ways to Say ‘Housing Weak but Improving’

Freddie Mac said that its Multi-Indicator Market Index (MiMI) for March continues to indicate a weak housing market overall but both monthly and quarterly improvement.  The Index was at 75.4 in March, a 0.69 percent gain from February and a three month improvement of 1.24 percent.  Since March 2014 the indicator has moved upward by 3.11 percent.

The company said that the U.S. housing market is continuing to stabilize and those markets showing the most improvement are also seeing stronger home sale demand in the spring market.  Even with strong home price growth low mortgage rates are keeping homes affordable in most markets.

 

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Paid-Off Revolving Debt No Longer Required to be Closed – Fannie

Fannie Mae has issued a slew of updates, clarifications, and extensions affecting its Selling Guide.  Announcement SEL-2015-06 includes the following changes. The most notable change concerns the way paid-off revolving debt is treated.

Payoff of Revolving Debt at or Prior to Closing:

Effective immediately, if the balance of a revolving debt has been paid down to zero before settlement the Selling Guide no long requires that the account be closed.  The account may remain open even as the DTI ratio is adjusted to reflect the change in monthly payment. Lenders may ignore the automatic reminder from Desktop Underwriter (DU) regarding an open account until that feature is removed in a DU release later in 2015.

 

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Ebbing Refinance Demand Weighs on Mortgage Applications

Mortgage applications declined overall for the fifth straight week even though there was a slight uptick in applications for purchase mortgages.  The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said that its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage application volume, declined by 1.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended May 22.  On an unadjusted basis the volume was down 2 percent compared to the week ended May 15.

The Refinance Index fell 4 percent from the previous week and the share of applications that were for refinancing dropped for the sixth consecutive week to 51 percent, one percentage point below the refinancing share a week earlier.

 

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Mortgage Rates Slightly Lower

Mortgage rates were just slightly lower in most cases today.  Last Friday, rates did a bit better than the underlying market weakness would have suggested, and now today, they've done a bit worse than the underlying strength would suggest, leaving them right about where they should be if the past two business days never happened.  The most prevalently-quoted conventional 30yr fixed rate remains 4.0% with some lenders continuing to offer 3.875%.  In most cases, the differences in rates over the past few days will only be seen in the form of varying closing costs as opposed to changes in the actual contract rate.

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FHFA Notes Less Aggressive Home Price Gains

The numbers on home price trends for March from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) were somewhat less aggressive that those also released on Tuesday from S&P Dow-Jones Case-Shiller indices.  While it is like comparing apples to eggplants it is still interesting to see the variations.  FHFA's seasonally adjusted monthly Home Price Index (HPI) for March posted an 0.3 percent gain over February, much weaker than the 0.8 percent increases for the Case-Shiller National Index and 10-City Composite and 0.9 percent for its 20-City Composite.  The FHFA number was also below analyst expectations of 0.7 percent.

 

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