U.S. gov’t to propose new mortgage lending rules

WASHINGTON (AP) – April 10, 2012 – The federal government plans to propose new rules on Tuesday that will give homeowners more ways to avoid foreclosure and get an accurate accounting of their monthly mortgage payments.

Congress mandated changes in the rules covering the mortgage servicing industry in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rules would require mortgage servicers to give all borrowers standardized monthly statements and warn borrowers about interest rate or insurance change.

The mortgage servicers would also be required to make “good-faith efforts” to contact borrowers at risk of foreclosure and give them options to avoid losing their homes. There are also stipulations for improving record-keeping and providing foreclosure counseling to those who need it.

The agency said it will formally propose the rules this summer and finalize them by January 2013.

Nearly 8 million Americans have faced foreclosure since the housing bubble burst in late 2006. Many homeowners have said companies that process mortgages failed to verify information on foreclosure documents. The worst practices, known collectively as “robo-signing,” included employees signing documents they hadn’t read or using fake signatures to approve foreclosures.

In February, the nation’s five largest mortgage lenders agreed to overhaul their mortgage servicing practices and pay $25 billion to U.S. states to help those who lost their homes or face foreclosure.

A mortgage servicer collects payments from the borrower on behalf of a loan’s owner and typically handles customer service, escrow accounts, collections, loan modifications and foreclosures. Most borrowers do not choose their mortgage servicers. The owner of a loan frequently is not the original lender, even when the original lender is the servicer.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau supervises U.S. payday lenders, mortgage companies and private student lenders. It also can write rules to supervise big lending companies.
Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press, Derek Kravitz, AP economics writer.

FHA….Fees Increasing.

WASHINGTON – April 9, 2012 – The upfront insurance premium charged on FHA-insured mortgages for home purchases increased from 1 percent to 1.75 percent today, and annual FHA mortgage insurance premiums rose by one-tenth of a percentage point.

For homebuyers, that means the cost of a $200,000 FHA mortgage rose by about $24 a month, assuming the borrower includes the upfront charge in the amount financed through a 30-year mortgage.

Jumbo loans did not change today, but a fee increase for jumbo loans and some 15-year loans will be added June 11.

While homebuyers won’t enjoy the extra cost, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says the extra income generated by the fee increase – the fourth one in three years – should generate more than $1 billion by 2013.

Source: “FHA Fees to Increase on Monday,” NASDAQ (April 5, 2012)

Miami-Fort Lauderdale……1.7% increase of new residents in 2011 (U.S. census: Florida cities rebounding)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 9, 2012 – Characterized over the past several years as a place from which people move, Southeast Florida has seen a new mini-boom in population growth following a decade of contraction, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Between 2010 and 2011, 92,045 residents moved to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach area, a 1.7 percent increase – the sixth largest increase in the country, according to data compiled by the Census Bureau in its first major revision to the 2010 Census.

Tampa/St. Petersburg saw the second largest influx of new residents in Florida over the period, with 36,573 pouring into the metropolitan area over the year.

Retirees appear to be coming back, as well. The Villages, a giant retirement community between and Ocala and Leesburg, saw 4.6 percent growth – the second highest growth figure in the nation after the energy boom town of Williston, N.D.

Thursday’s news has brought validation to reports first emerging in December that Florida had population gains for the first time after several years of flat or negative numbers. In a state that relies on construction and sales tax for much of its revenue, the return is expected to have an impact on state and local coffers.

“To us, population is the strongest driver in our economy,” says Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Bureau of Economic and Demographic Research. “For us to get well into recovery, we needed to see population growth come back. The statewide data we started seeing in December … now appears to bear that out.”

The census figures released Thursday show a shift in demographics. A number of counties and cities that had runaway growth between 2000 and 2010 fell off the chart after overbuilding and the housing collapse that began in 2007.

Palm Coast, which during the century’s first decade was the nation’s fastest growing metro area, fell to 55th place in the past years as the region continued to suffer from a lack of industry and an economy especially reliant on construction and growth. Between July 2010 and 2011, the region lost about 263 residents.

That town’s loss paled in comparison to Las Vegas, however, which was the third fastest-growing metro area between 2000 and 2010. It fell to 151st place.

“Our nation is constantly changing, and these estimates provide us with our first measure of how much sub-state areas have grown or declined in total population since Census Day, April 1, 2010,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement. “We’re already seeing different patterns of population growth than we saw in the last decade.”

But other Florida cities hit hard in the latter part of the last decade have begun to rebound. Cape Coral, which was near the epicenter of the housing bust in 2008, was ranked 40th among 366 metro areas in terms of growth during the period. Tampa and Orlando also experienced relatively strong growth, the bureau reported.

“It is validating what we had expected to see,” Baker says. “But it is nice to see how well we have ranked against other states, and our cities against other parts of the country.”

In North Dakota, Williston, an oil shale boomtown near the Canadian border, is seeing growth approaching 10 percent.

Texas cities led the list of fast growing areas during the 15 months ending July 1, 2011. Dallas-Fort Worth gained 155,000 while Houston added 140,000 residents during the period.

Source: News Service of Florida, Michael Peltier

FHA clarifies new ‘credit dispute’ rule

WASHINGTON – April 5, 2012 – The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) back stepped a bit on a rule announced earlier. FHA says it will give borrowers a chance to explain any disputed collection accounts in their history in order to qualify for an FHA-backed mortgage. A new FHA rule took effect April 1 and had some in the real estate community concerned that it would shut more buyers out by disqualifying them for mortgages.

Under FHA’s new rule, borrowers with any credit disputes greater than $1,000 on file will not be able to get the government-backed loan. As first announced, borrowers either have to pay the remaining balance of the credit amount or show proof of entering into a payment plan for it.

The FHA is easing those restrictions somewhat, according to new instructions it provided to lenders, HousingWire reports. Borrowers will be exempt from the new rule if the credit amount is from a “life event.” This might include a medical bill, death, divorce or unemployment.

“The borrower may provide a written explanation and documentation as it applies to all types of disputed and collections accounts if it makes sense, and is consistent with other credit information in the file,” according to instructions provided to lenders.

Also starting on April 1, the FHA raised its insurance premiums, citing it as another effort to try to rebuild its emergency fund, which has fallen below the mandated amount Congress requires.

Source: “FHA Eases New Rule on Collections Accounts,” HousingWire (April 3, 2012)

© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Home prices increasing in South Florida…Good News for Broward County…

Home prices increasing in South Florida…Good News for Broward County…

Home prices in South Florida are projected to rise by 6 percent this year, according ot California-based research firm Clear Capital. The projection means that Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties would each be in the list of the top 10 best-performing areas in the United States. It still will be some time for the region to reach its highs from the bubble, however, according to Clear Capital’s Alex Villacorta. “All of these markets have a long way to go,” he said. [Sun Sentinel]

Miami home prices jump 11 percent

Home prices in the Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall metro area, increased by 11 percent in February, compared to the same period in 2011, according to a report from CoreLogic. As a whole, Florida saw a 4.7 percent increase in home prices, the third-largest increase of any state in America. “The continued strength of sales activity and tightening inventories in many markets are early and hopeful signs that prices will continue to stabilize and improve in the coming months,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “In fact, hon-distressed home sale prices, which represent two-thirds of all sales, have appreciated by just over 1 percent since the beginning of the year.” — Alexander Britell


Morgan Stanley to pay some U.S. foreclosures

WASHINGTON – April 4, 2012 – The Federal Reserve says Morgan Stanley will review foreclosures carried out by its old mortgage subsidiary and reimburse any homeowners who were improperly forced out of their homes.

The Fed says it has settled with Morgan Stanley to “address a pattern of misconduct and negligence” at its former mortgage-loan unit, Saxon Mortgage Services Inc.

Morgan Stanley officials declined to comment on the settlement Monday.

Morgan Stanley sold a substantial portion of its holdings of Saxon to Ocwen Financial Corp., and it has closed other parts of its residential mortgage servicing business.

Before the sale, Saxon was the 34th largest mortgage servicer in the United States.

Steven Witkoff sells second Star Island lot for $8.5M

South Florida Business Journal

Date: Monday, April 2, 2012, 7:46am EDT – Last Modified: Monday, April 2, 2012, 8:22am EDT

Steven Witkoff, founder and president of New York-based Witkoff Group, has sold his second Star Island lot in less than a month.

The lot at 36 Star Island Drive in Miami Beach sold to an undisclosed buyer for $8.5 million on March 27, The Real Dealreported. The sale came after Witkoff sold his adjacent lot at 35 Star Island Drive for the same price at the end of February.

Douglas Elliman Florida handled both deals.

Star Island properties have continued to make headlines. Most recently, a mansion at 27 Star Island went from sold to for sale again in about 10 months.