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New Jersey Chief Justice Threatens to Suspend State Foreclosures

After reviewing a report and recommendations presented to him, New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced on Monday a series of steps to protect the integrity of foreclosure filings in the state. The report featured a review of robo-signing irregularities by mortgage lenders and servicers and included analysis of actions other states had taken.

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Wells Fargo Agrees to $2 Billion Worth of California Loan Modifications

Wells Fargo has reached an agreement with California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., to provide loan modifications worth more than $2 billion to an estimated 14,900 California homeowners with pick-a-pay loans originated by World Savings and Wachovia, banks Wells Fargo acquired. Wells Fargo will also pay an additional $32 million to thousands of borrowers who lost their homes through foreclosure. The bank says the majority of Wachovia's Pick-a-Payment customers reside in California.

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Mortgage Loan Applications Plunge 18.6 Percent: MBA

Consumer demand for home mortgages fell sharply last week, as interest rates continued to edge up from six-month highs. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported Wednesday that its measurement of total mortgage loan application volume plunged 18.6 percent for the week ending December 17. The steep drop was driven by a 24.6 percent decline in applications for mortgage refinancing, which have fallen for six straight weeks now.

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Sales of Existing Homes Gain Ground in November

Existing-home sales got back on an upward path in November, resuming a growth trend since bottoming in July, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Wednesday. Sales of previously owned homes rose 5.6 percent last month. Distressed homes accounted for 33 percent of the month's total sales volume. Housing inventory at the end of November fell 4 percent to 3.71 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.5-month supply at the current sales pace.

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Pitch for National Mortgage Servicing Rules Gains Momentum

The call for federal officials to establish industry-wide mortgage servicing and foreclosure standards is getting louder. A group of more than 50 senior economists, academic leaders, and influential investors sent a letter to the heads of federal regulatory agencies Tuesday, urging them to take the lead in setting national standards for mortgage loan servicers. The group argues that widely reported fraud in servicers' dealings with homeowners and foreclosure procedures demands new standards be adopted now.

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RE/MAX Reports Steady Housing Prices, Declining Sales

The latest RE/MAX National Housing Report shows housing prices remaining relatively stable, with sales still experiencing some declines. The company's survey of 54 metropolitan areas revealed that November sales were 4.9 percent below October sales, and 25.9 percent below sales for November 2009. The average price drop was 1.7 percent from last November, however, 36 of the 54 metros posted price increases compared to their year-ago levels.

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Veteran of CRE Liquidations Launches Florida Asset Management Firm

Peter Monroe was president of the oversight board of the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) in the early 1990s. During his tenure there, he lent his expertise to unwinding hundreds of billions of commercial mortgages from insolvent savings and loan (S&L) institutions. With the current real estate downturn, such skills are in demand again, and Monroe has his sights set on the Florida commercial property market.

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CoreLogic’s AVMs Comply with New Federal Standards

CoreLogic says its automated valuation models (AVMs) can assist mortgage lenders in complying with the new federal standards on property valuations. The new standards were released December 2 by the five federal bank regulatory agencies, and emphasize the need for risk-focused appraisal reviews, rigorous AVM testing, enhanced documentation of property condition, and valuation updates during the life of the loan.

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GSEs’ Foreclosures Outnumber Modifications More than 2 to 1 in Q3

For every home loan held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that was modified during the third quarter, 2.3 loans were foreclosed on during the same period. The GSEs initiated foreclosure on 339,000 home mortgages during the July to September timeframe. Loan modifications completed in the quarter totaled 146,500, with the majority of those completed through non-HAMP programs. The two companies approved 29,500 short sales during the third quarter.

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Fannie Mae Opens First Mortgage Help Center in Texas

Fannie Mae is adding a sixth mortgage help center to its arsenal with its first Texas location. The new center, located in Dallas, is a partnership with two local non-profit housing agencies that will provide free counseling services for struggling Dallas/Fort Worth-area homeowners with loans owned by Fannie Mae. Counselors will review a borrower's loan, discuss foreclosure alternatives, collect the required documents for the federal Making Home Affordable program, and provide help to finalize any pending loan workout efforts.

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