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Refi Activity Leads to 4.9% Increase in Mortgage Apps: MBA

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported Wednesday that its index of mortgage application volume climbed 4.9 percent for the week ending August 20. Refinance activity was the driving force behind the increase. Record-low interest rates are prompting existing homeowners to take out new loans and lower their monthly mortgage payments.

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Holliday Fenoglio Fowler Hires New Managing Director

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P. (HFF), a provider of commercial real estate and capital markets services, announced this week that Christopher Simon is the company's new managing director of its debt placement group. A 13-year veteran of commercial real estate, Simon's new role will focus on originating debt, equity, and structured finance transactions throughout the western United States.

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Nearly Two-Thirds of Delinquent Mortgages Untouched: Study

According to a report from state attorneys general and bank supervisors from across the country, more than 60 percent of homeowners with seriously delinquent loans are still not involved in any form of loss mitigation with their servicer. The ratio is disconcerting considering the group also found that loan modifications today are resulting in significant payment reductions with fewer redefaults. Absent improvements in foreclosure prevention efforts, the group expects hundreds of thousands of foreclosures will occur later this year.

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Housing Affordability Near Record-High for Sixth Consecutive Quarter

Bolstered by favorable interest rates and low home prices, housing affordability in the second quarter remained near its highest level of the past two decades, according to an industry index developed by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo. The study found that 72.3 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the second quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. Syracuse, New York was the most affordable major housing market. New York City was the least.

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Fitch Upgrades BofA but Voices Concern over Mortgage Portfolio

Fitch Ratings has upgraded the individual and preferred stock ratings of Bank of America. But the agency says the upgrades are tempered by the bank's high level of nonperforming loans and the likelihood of large volumes of mortgage repurchase requests from the GSEs and other secondary market investors, largely because of the loans the bank inherited from its Countrywide acquisition. Fitch also expressed concern about BofA's exposure to home equity loans, especially those with loan-to-value ratios above 100 percent.

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Arizona Court: $123M Trigild Sale Approved

The Arizona Superior Court issued a ruling this month that allows San Diego-based receivership and loan recovery specialist Trigild to sell seven Arizona apartment complexes to Standard Portfolio for $123 million. The 2,759-unit portfolio was abandoned last year by the investment firm Bethany Group and placed into receivership in March 2009. The court's ruling allows the properties to be sold without requiring the lender to foreclose prior to the sale.

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Property Management Company Grows with Lease-and-Hold Strategy

Real Property Management says it has transitioned thousands of REO properties into rentals by using a lease and hold strategy. The company offers its rental initiatives to former owners of foreclosed properties or to new tenants, and says local, regional, and national banks, as well as other mortgage owners are now turning to a lease and hold strategy as REO inventories balloon.

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Real Estate Pros Affected by Oil Spill Eligible for Financial Assistance

National Catastrophe Adjusters, Inc. has been selected to administer a special allocation of funds dedicated to pay claims for real estate professionals who have lost business because of the April 20th Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This financial assistance will be administered outside of the recently established Gulf Coast Claims Facility and is earmarked for emergency payments to eligible real estate professionals licensed in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

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Existing-Home Sales Post Worst Showing in More than a Decade

Sales of previously owned homes in the United States plummeted 27.2 percent in July compared to the previous month, according to data released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The market was bracing for a noticeable falloff as payback for the tax credits that pulled sales forward into the spring months, but the reality was worse than projected - nearly double the decline analysts were expecting. The July plunge pushed existing-home sales down to an annual rate of 3.83 million units, their lowest level since May of 1995.

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CBO Cuts Projected TARP Price Tag by Another $43B

Taxpayers' tab for the government's $700 billion dollar bailout program continues to drop. New estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put the cost of the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) at $66 billion. That's nearly $45 billion less than the agency's projection just five months ago. The agency's estimates for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac improved as well. Outlays for the two GSEs are expected to fall from $96 billion in 2009 to $41 billion this year.

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