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Home Sales Increased in Q4, Expected to Continue Throughout 2011

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that home sales increased in 49 states during the fourth quarter of 2010, with 78 markets experiencing gains from the fourth quarter of 2009. The national average of home sales rose 15.4 percent to an annual rate of 4.80 million in Q4 from 4.16 million in the third quarter. Distressed homes accounted for 34 percent of sales last quarter. Even with foreclosures continuing to enter the inventory pipeline, NAR says they've been selling well and housing supplies have trended down.

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Housing Finance … Seven Years Down the Road

On top of the more imminent reform measures laid out Friday to begin winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Obama administration's proposal outlines three options for long-term reform and structuring the government's future role in housing. One approach would pull the government completely out of the mortgage guarantee business except for insurance provided through FHA. A second option would add a backstop mechanism during times of crisis to the mix. And a third option would provide an FDIC-type insurance guarantee for certain mortgage securities.

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George Washington University Study Says FHA Carrying Too Much Risk

A study by George Washington University suggests the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is carrying too much risk in insuring such a large percentage of large loans. In 2007 the FHA share of the home purchase market was at 6 percent. In 2009 that number came in at more than 56 percent. During that time, the size of the agency's loan limits more than doubled. The administration's plan for reforming the housing finance market indicates the government is planning to return FHA to its traditional role.

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Administration Lays Out Plan for Winding Down Fannie and Freddie

The Obama administration says its plan for reforming the housing finance system will dramatically reduce the government's role in the mortgage market and bring an end to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within seven years. Key actions for phasing out the GSEs include pricing their guarantees based on the same capital standards as private lenders and increasing down payment requirements to 10 percent. The proposal also outlines near-term reforms to correct problems in foreclosure processing such as setting national standards for mortgage servicing.

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Homeownership: American Dream or American Nightmare?

Although foreclosures and underwater homes continue to plague today's housing market, a survey conducted by Trulia.com found that 70 percent of Americans still view homeownership as being part of their American Dream. In fact, more than three out of four homeowners say their homes are the best investment they ever made. Conversely, only 20 percent feel trapped in their ""underwater"" homes, while 14 percent said they would walk away from their mortgage in a heartbeat if they could.

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Altos Research Unveils Property Price Forecaster

Analytics firm Altos Research this week unveiled a new product that will forecast changes in a property's transaction price up to 12 months into the future based on the strength or weakness of the area's local real estate market. The product, AltosEvaluate Forward Valuation Modeling (FVM), debuted at the American Securitization Forum 2011.

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DataQuick Launches New Web Site

DataQuick, a San Diego-based independent provider of real estate information, analysis, and solutions, recently launched a new Web site, Dataquick.com. According to a statement from the company, the site will ""better reflect the company's strengths, growing product lines, and presence online.""

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Mortgage Rates Soar to Highest Mark Since Last April

Mortgage interest rates rocketed higher this week. Reports from Freddie Mac and Bankrate recorded significant jumps across all home loan products. Both companies' surveys showed that the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage has hit its highest level since April 2010. Some industry experts argue that rising rates could be a positive for the housing market. While the ascension will likely slow refinancing activity, it could be the nudge prospective homebuyers need to get off the fence and lock in lower borrowing costs.

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TransUnion Reports Credit Risk and Demand Down

Data released this week by TransUnion says U.S. consumers are less of a credit risk than they have been in nearly two years. The company's proprietary Credit Risk Index decreased by 3.13 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 when compared to a year earlier. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia experienced declines in their credit risk indexes in Q4. The only state to see an increase was Wisconsin. TransUnion says while consumers' credit profiles have improved, consumer demand for credit has declined.

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BrokerPriceOpinion.com Names New President

BrokerPriceOpinion.com recently named Michael Richardson as president. Richardson will manage the day-to-day national operations of the company, which develops Web-based BPOs, appraisals, and automated valuation models to streamline the valuation process. Richardson brings more than 25 years of experience in the mortgage and real estate industries to BrokerPriceOpinion.com.

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