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Yellen Faces Grilling in First Hearing as Fed Chair

In prepared remarks for the House Financial Services Committee, newly installed Fed chair Janet Yellen echoed much of what analysts have seen in recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statements, with references to a recovering (but still weakened) labor market, a slowing housing market, restrictive fiscal policy, and the usual prediction of a “moderate” expansion in the nation’s economic activity.

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Zillow Report Shows Rise in Mortgage Rates

Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, operated by the online real estate database Zillow, released its weekly mortgage rates Tuesday. Zillow reports that 30-year fixed mortgage rates rose slightly to 4.14 percent, reversing the previous week’s decline from 4.09 percent at this time last week. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose early last week before leveling off near 4.13 percent on Friday.

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New Housing Data Reveals Positive 2013 for Florida

New housing data released by Florida Realtors shows a positive 2013 for closed and pending sales. The closed sales for existing single-family homes totaled 227,411, up 11.8 percent from 2012. Pending sales figures were also positive, up 17.6 percent compared to 2012.

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USRES Enhances Property Valuation Platform

USRES, a provider of management solutions for real estate assets and the parent company of RES.NET, recently unveiled enhancements to its proprietary valuations platform designed to improve quality control and compliance efforts.

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FHFA Announces HARP Milestone

In a report released Monday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have reached the milestone of 3 million refinances under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)."Three million HARP refinances is an important accomplishment and represents real help to families and communities still struggling as a result of the mortgage crisis," said FHFA Director Mel Watt.

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Freddie Mac Announces Third Risk-Sharing Deal

Freddie Mac announced the pricing of its first Structured Agency Credit Risk (STACR) transaction of the year: a $1 billion offering of debt notes whose buyers will share in the risk. According to the company, the offering "represents one of the largest subordinate mortgage credit securitizations ever brought to market."

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CFPB Launches New Reporting Tool

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled a new tool Friday aimed at making Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data more user-friendly. In a report released the same day, the CFPB said it collected HMDA data from 7,400 financial institutions in 2012 on 18.7 million loan applications. Not all new information would be made publicly available, and the new reporting guidelines would largely be in line with current industry standards.

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Consumers Expect Brighter Economy, Slower Home Price Gains

It appears more consumers have taken notice of reports of slowing home price gains. The share of consumers in Fannie Mae's January National Housing Survey who said they expect home prices to increase in the next year fell 6 percentage points to 43 percent, while the share expecting prices to stay the same increased 7 percentage points to 45 percent. The average 12-month home price change expectation was 2.0 percent.

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National Appraisal Congress Launches, First Chairman Named

The Five Star Institute announced Monday the formation of the National Appraisal Congress (NAC). In response to a developing need for thought leadership and the promotion of best practices and execution, the NAC will serve as a collection of subject matter experts to foster collaboration in the real estate appraisal industry.

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