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GSE Tells Servicers to Transfer Foreclosure Cases from Stern Law Firm

Fannie Mae has issued a notice instructing servicers that have cases at the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A. to take immediate action to transfer those matters to other firms in the Fannie Mae Retained Attorney Network in Florida. By November 15, servicers must determine transfer locations for the Fannie Mae matters currently at the Stern firm, notify the new firms, and inform the GSE of the destination for the cases in question.

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Bank of America Brings Suit Against Old Republic

Bank of America says Old Republic International is wrongfully withholding payment on hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgage insurance claims on loans that have defaulted. BofA has filed a lawsuit against the mortgage insurer seeking to recover more than $160 million in damages. Bank of America says between 2009 and 2010, claims paid by Old Republic under its policy fell by 75 percent and denials persist, although the mortgage insurer markets its services as protecting lenders ""against default loss for virtually any reason.""

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Fannie Help Center Provides Free Foreclosure Counseling in Los Angeles

Fannie Mae announced the opening of a new mortgage help center in Culver City, California, this week to provide counseling and other services for struggling homeowners in the greater metro area with loans owned by the GSE. The fourth facility in a series of nationwide mortgage help centers, the Greater Los Angeles Mortgage Help Center is a joint partnership between Fannie Mae and West Angeles Community Development Corporation, major mortgage servicers, and civic and community leaders.

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Mortgage Rates Set New Record Lows in Freddie Mac Survey

Interest rates on home loans sunk to new lows this week, according to figures released by Freddie Mac Thursday. The GSE surveyed 125 lenders across the country and found that rates on 30-year mortgages are now averaging 4.17 percent, while the average rate for 15-year loans dropped to 3.57 percent. The GSE's chief economist expressed concern that although rates are at their lowest level in more than a half century, they've done little to pull would-be buyers from the sidelines as the housing recovery continues to slow.

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Washington Weighs Trimming Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction

Members of the commission created by President Obama to shrink the federal deficit published a proposal this week that would significantly scale back the mortgage interest tax deduction. One recommendation would reduce the deduction amount by 20 percent. The second calls for the exclusion of second residences, home equity loans, and mortgages over $500,000. The proposal has drawn criticism from industry groups who say now is not the time to wrench incentives from a housing industry struggling to get back on its feet.

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Foreclosure Filings Down 4% in October: RealtyTrac

Foreclosure filings were reported on 332,172 properties during the month of October, according to data released by RealtyTrac Thursday. That tally represents a 4 percent decrease from the previous month. RealtyTrac says the numbers probably would have been higher except for the fallout from the recent robo-signing controversy, which may result in further declines in November. Lenders seized 9 percent fewer homes last month than they did in September, before foreclosures were frozen in certain states.

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FDIC Proposes New Fee Structure Based on Banks’ Assets

The FDIC has approved a proposal that would change the way it determines how much banks pay for the agency's deposit insurance coverage. Since 1935, individual institutions' premiums have been based on the amount of their domestic deposits. The FDIC wants to amend the assessment scheme so that it is based on the bank's assets instead. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup could together hand over an estimated $1 billion annually in additional fees under the new structure.

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Inventories of For-Sale Homes Drop in Most Major Markets: Altos

Inventories of homes listed for sale are dwindling across the country, in some markets, significantly, according to Altos Research. Of the 26 major markets the company tracks, only three showed increases in inventory during the month of October - Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego - and Altos described their increases as ""slight."" Washington, D.C. had the biggest decline in its supply of listed homes. While, typically, decreases in inventory are evidence of a leveling off, Altos says the potential impact of the so-called shadow inventory looms large.

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Mortgage Applications Increase for Both Purchases and Refinances

The number of applications submitted by consumers for mortgage loans rose last week, as interest rates held low. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported that applications for home purchases were up 5.5 percent from one week earlier, marking their third consecutive weekly increase. MBA's index for refinance applications also rose, jumping 6.0 percent from the previous week.

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More Homeowners Underwater as Depression-Era Depreciation Nears

The number of homeowners with a mortgage that were underwater on their loan rose to nearly one-quarter - or 23.2 percent - in the third quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by the real estate data provider Zillow. With home values nationally 25 percent below their June 2006 peak, the current housing downturn is approaching Great Depression-era declines, when home values fell 25.9 percent in five years (between 1929 and 1933).

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