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Credit Availability Up in February
By: Tory Barringer - Mortgage credit availability opened up for the third straight month in February, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported in its monthly index.
   MBA’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI), a measure of borrower eligibility and underwriting criteria from more than 85 lenders, moved up half a percentage point to 113.5 last month, building on an increase of two points recorded in January.
   Once again, the expansion in credit offerings in February was the result of offsetting factors, including changes in lending brought on by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), said MBA chief economist Mike Fratantoni.
>>Read More
Consumer Expectations Stay Steady in February
By: Tory Barringer - The latest poll from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows consumer expectations stayed mostly flat in February, particularly on the housing side.
    According to responses in the New York Fed's most recent Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE), consumers last month indicated a median home price change expectation of 4.0 percent, reversing an increase to 4.6 percent in January.
    Price change expectations hovered around 4.5 percent for much of last year's second half, coming down only when national reports indicated a slowdown.
>>Read More
Are post-crisis credit requirements holding back $1.2M mortgages?
Researchers at the Urban Institute say yes, and explain how
By Trey Garrison - The number of mortgages that could be made if credit conditions and requirements were at traditional, pre-crisis levels could top 1.2 million.
    That’s the finding of Laurie Goodman, center director for the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, in a paper the Institute put out on the challenges minority households face in the new credit environment >>Read More

Realtors sue Zillow for breach of contract
Lawsuit alleges violation of trade secrets
By: Jacob Gaffney and Trey Garrison - Move and the National Association of Realtors have filed a lawsuit against Zillow and Errol Samuelson, chief industry development officer for Zillow, in a Washington state superior court, alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of trade secrets.

The National Association of Realtors and its subsidiary Realtors Information Network, Inc. joined as plaintiffs in the suit. More in Housing Wire

Mortgage apps decline 1.2% week after big spike
MBA: Mortgage applications continue 6-week drop
By Trey Garrison - A week after a big spike of almost 10%, mortgage applications fell 1.2%, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly mortgage applications survey for the week ending March 14, 2014.
    The MBA’s measure of mortgage loan application volume fell 1.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis from the week ending March 7.
    The refinance index decreased 1% from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted purchase index also decreased 1% from one week earlier >>Read More

CFPB still flooded with mortgage complaints
Receives 4,300 mortgage complaints per month
By: Jacob Gaffney - Appropriately responding to complaints is one of the primary functions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and it's easy to see why.

According to remarks from Steve Antonakes, Deputy Director of the CFPB, in February the bureau received more than 31,700 calls and handled more than 21,000 complaints. And mortgages make up a large portion of those.>>Read More

FHA launching Fannie, Freddie-style appraisal portal
Will be similar to Uniform Collateral Data Portal
By Ben Lane - The Federal Housing Administration Office of Single Family Housing is developing a new web-based portal for electronic appraisal report and data submissions.

The FHA is working to launch the working-titled Electronic Appraisal Delivery (EAD) portal in 2015 after a period of testing this summer. The portal will be similar to the Uniform Collateral Data Portal, already in use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When the portal is fully operational, mortgagees will be able to submit electronic appraisal data to the FHA. >>Read More in Housing Wire

Mortgage Rates Slightly Lower to End Week
by: Matthew Graham - Mortgage rates managed to move lower today, generally erasing yesterday's increases.  There was very little by way of market-moving events to motivate the changes.  Considering that yesterday's higher rates were contrary to the underlying market movement, today can be viewed as more of a correction to previous volatility, with no profound comment on future momentum.  Whereas the most prevalently quoted conforming 30yr rate for top-tier scenarios (best-execution) had been closing in on 4.625%, today's strength keeps 4.5% firmly intact for now.  When adjusted for day-to-day changes in closing costs, rates are 0.03% lower on average today.

Unlike nearly all of 2013, the current communications coming from the Fed leave far less to markets' collective imagination.  Back then, we could only guess as to when "enough would be enough" with respect to economic improvement justifying the start of tapering--the regularly scheduled reduction in the amount of bonds bought by the Fed.  Read more in Mortgage News Daily

Sunny Days Ahead for Growth?
By: Krista Franks Brock - Following a slowdown in activity over the previous two quarters, Fannie Mae’sEconomic & Strategic Research Group expects economic activity to pick up in the second quarter of this year, bolstered by increases in the housing sector, consumer spending, and business investment.

Fannie Mae expects economic growth in the first quarter to come in around 2.0 percent, but thereafter, the economy should pick up. Economic growth for the year is expected at 2.7 percent, according to Fannie Mae. Read More MReport

Home Price Appreciation Decelerating on Average
by: Matthew Graham - The pace of appreciation varies greatly by state.  Prices in California saw the best year-over-year growth (+14.8%) among the 20 largest states while New York experienced the best month-over-month gains in that same cohort (+0.6 percent).  
Black Knight Financial Services (formerly Lender Processing Services) reports that home values in the U.S. as of December remained within 14 percent of the peak reached in 2006.  Measured by Black Knight's Home Price Index (HPI) the national single family home price was $232,000 in January, unchanged from December and 8.0 percent above the $215,000 HPI in January 2013.  Year over year price appreciation slowed by 0.4 percent. Read More MortgageNewsDaily

New Home Sales Retreat After January Surge
By: Tory Barringer - New single-family home sales weakened last month, bringing market figures down after a surge reported in January.
     According to reports released Tuesday by the Census Bureau and HUD, new home sales in February ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000, down 3.3 percent from the revised January rate of 455,000 (originally recorded at 468,000). It was the weakest sales pace since September 2013.
    Compared to February 2013, last month’s sales rate was down by about 5,000 (1.1 percent).
     Despite the national decrease, some analysts found stats worth celebrating in the latest report. Read More MReport

The cost of closing mortgages is officially astronomical
By: Jacob Gaffney - First, the Federal Reserve finds investors prefer to do business with too-big-to-fails, in favor of smaller financial institutions, leaving a higher cost of doing business for the little guys.

Now, the Mortgage Bankers Association is reporting that, per loan, mortgage-banking profits took a huge hit in the fourth quarter. What's more, loan production expenses are going through the roof. And this doesn't even include the qualified mortgage rule numbers yet.

Will the MBA first quarter 2014 report show an even bigger increase? Expect it. Read more in HousingWire

Fed dialing back its support of the mortgage bond market
Just as peak home buying season approaches
By: Ben Lane
The Federal Reserve is poised to decrease its interest in the mortgage bond market, according to a report on Bloomberg.

Fed-purchased securities, which helped to spur the housing recovery, are poised to fall below growth as soon as May, the report says. Read More HousingWire

Loan Shortage Pushes Mortgage Firms to Accept Lower Credit Scores
By Bonnie Sinnock - A growing number of home lenders are lowering their minimum credit scores in an attempt to boost origination volumes that have suffered as interest rates climb.

Until recently, most lenders refrained from lending to borrowers with credit scores far below 600, even when government loan programs like the Federal Housing Administration allowed it. The lenders feared having to repurchase the loans or indemnify the FHA for losses if the borrowers defaulted, not to mention the reputational risk associated with subprime lending in the wake of the housing crash. Read More National Mortgage News

Overvalued Markets on the Rise; National Prices Still Under
By: Tory Barringer - With year-over-year price increases continuing on a double-digit course despite recent slowdowns, the ever-present question has once again come to the fore for market commentators and analysts: Has the housing market reached bubble status once again?

The answer—at least, according to Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko—is both yes and no.  Read More MReport
PIMCO expects U.S. economy to grow 2.5-3% in 2014
Biggest risk for growth? Ongoing tapering
By Ben Lane

PIMCO, the world’s largest bond fund, is expecting growth in the U.S. economy in 2014.

PIMCO’s recently released cyclical outlook for the Americas is forecasting growth in the U.S. economy of 2.5-3% in 2014.

“The main source of the improvement in outlook comes from a reduction in fiscal drag,” PIMCO Portfolio Manager Mohit Mittal said. “Recall that in 2013, we saw significant fiscal drag from the payroll tax hike, Affordable Care Act taxes and sequestration. The incremental drag from these measures will decline in 2014. Additionally, public sector revenues have improved, helped by higher asset prices and improvement in consumption. As a result, the fiscal deficit will decline to around 3.5% of GDP in 2014, which is near the long-term average, thereby eliminating the need for additional fiscal restraint on the economy.” Read More in HousingWire

Purchase Volumes Fail to Lift March Mortgage Applications
By: Tory Barringer - After months of weak growth to start the year, mortgage application volumes sank in March as purchase numbers continue to struggle to find footing.

Compiling weekly survey results from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), macroeconomic research firm Capital Economics calculated a 2.9 percent drop in total application volume in March following a meek 0.1 percent increase in February.  Read More MReport

2 in 3 homes are affordable, is a bubble forming?
Zillow study shows a housing affordability gap
By: Trey Garrison - More than half the homes currently on the market in seven major American metros are currently unaffordable for local residents, and one-third of homes for sale are unaffordable by historic standards.

That’s the conclusion from a Zillow (Z) analysis of income, mortgage and home value data in the fourth quarter of 2013, which puts to question the regular industry claim that housing is more affordable than ever because of the current price and interest rate levels coming out of the housing crash.Read More In HousingWire

Online home shopping surges; Mortgages tank
Brena Swanson - Online home shopping hit new records in March, with Zillow (Z) traffic rising by almost 7 million since the start of the year, an article from GeekWire reported.

In March, the Seattle based company soared to nearly 77 million unique users, an increase from 66 million in February, and a drastic jump from 50 million for the same period a year prior.  

But Zillow is not alone in its efforts.

The article explains that Zillow is in a serious battle for mindshare in the online real estate arena, competing with players such as Realtor.com and Trulia (TRLA). As part of that effort, both Trulia and Zillow are engaged in a multi-million dollar branding effort, with Trulia attracting about 38 million visitors per month at the end of 20 13. >>Read More HousingWire

Americans’ Feelings Mixed on Present, Future of Housing
By: Tory Barringer - Housing optimism for the year ahead diminished somewhat in March, though signs largely point to a positive spring season.

Fannie Mae released Monday its most recent National Housing Survey, revealing a slight softening in the housing recovery as monthly indicators remain volatile.

According to results from the March survey, fewer than half of consumers polled expect home prices to continue rising over the next 12 months, continuing a trend of uncertainty that started as price gains began to slow noticeably last fall.

Even among those expecting more increases, the average yearly change predicted is 2.7 percent, down half a percentage point from February. >>Read More MReport

Credit Availability Improves With New Jumbo Programs
by: Jann Swanson -The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) noted this morning that mortgage credit was slightly more available in March than it was in February.  The Association's Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) rose to 114.00 from 113.5 in February.  Higher index values indicate higher credit availability or looser guidelines.

Mike Fratantoni, MBA's Chief Economists said, "Consistent with past months, many lenders and investors are providing borrowers seeking higher loan amounts with a broader range of financing options by introducing new jumbo loan programs.  Over the month, some lenders made a complete exit from wholesale lending operations, while other lenders moved to enter that space or expanded operations."  >>Read More Mortgage News Daily

Foreclosure activity at lowest level since 2Q 2007
Foreclosures up 4% from February but down 23% since March 2013
Trey Garrison - There were 117,485 foreclosure filings in March 2014, which is up 4% from February but still down 23% compared to March 2013, according to RealtyTrac’s “U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.”

RealtyTrac’s report on foreclosures — that includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — covers the month of March and the first quarter of 2014.>>Read More Housing Wire

Asking Prices Up 10.0% Year-on-Year; Urban Areas Lead
By: Scott Morgan - Asking Prices Up 10.0% Year-on-Year; Urban Areas Lead
As the housing market inches further toward recovery, a curious dichotomy has arisen between urban and suburban growth. According to Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, while cities are outpacing the suburbs in price gains, the suburbs are leading the way in population growth.

According to Kolko, citing Trulia’s joint Price Monitor and Rent Monitor reports, released Wednesday, asking prices for homes in densely populated (i.e., high-rise-rich) and urban settings are still rising as the spring buying market catches its stride. Asking prices typically lead actual sale prices by about two months, meaning today’s asking prices should be a good indicator of what typical sale prices will be as housing enters the summer.>>Read More MReport

Banks Pushing Court Foreclosures Means More Inventory
Lenders are increasingly using the courts to foreclose on delinquent homeowners in states where it's not required to reduce the risk of falling afoul of new protections.

In the first quarter, banks filed 2,348 court notices in nonjudicial states, which don't require court involvement, according to data compiled by Irvine, Calif.-based mortgage data provider RealtyTrac Inc. That compares with only seven notices in the first quarter of 2013. The shift to the courts comes after laws were passed in states such as California and Hawaii that give consumers new tools to fight foreclosure, said RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist. National Mortgage News

Price Gains Continue to Build Up Steam
By: Tory Barringer - FNC, Inc.’s Residential Price Index (RPI) once again picked up its clip in February, rising at the highest annual rate in nearly eight years, the company reported.

The national index, created to gauge price movement among “normal” home sales (exclusive of distressed properties), climbed 9.1 percent year-over-year in February, bringing it back to levels last seen at the peak of the housing market in June 2006 as non-distressed sales gain market share. >>Read More MReport

New Home Purchase Applications Up 15%

By:Tory Barringer - Applications for new home purchases increased in March, though adjusted sales of new homes are expected to have fallen.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released Tuesday its Builder Application Survey for last month, with data showing a 15 percent month-over-month increase in new home purchase applications. The data reflects application volume from mortgage subsidiaries of homebuilders and is not adjusted for seasonal patterns. >>Read More MReport

Yellen: Interest rates won't increase anytime soon
by  David Shirmeyer - A lot of things to think about today; March housing starts were weaker than expected, building permits also a little lite, March industrial production better than forecasts and capacity utilization at its best use since June 2008 at 79.2%.

At 12:00 yesterday afternoon Janet Yellen at the Economics Club of NY made another dove bird speech and later in the afternoon (2:00) the Fed Beige Book was released. There are days when there isn’t anything happening, today not the case. >>Read More MPA
Victory on Flood Insurance Could Be Taxpayers' Loss
Lenders and Realtors are happy about a new law that blocks potentially huge increases in federal flood insurance premiums. But if predictions about sea level rise by the federal government are anywhere near correct, taxpayers will soon be on the hook for a lot more than the current roughly $25 billion shortfall in revenue at the National Flood Insurance Program.

The potential taxpayer liability is impossible to gauge precisely, as it will depend on unpredictable natural events.>>Read More Mortgage Servicing News