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House Republicans Want Penalties for Strategic Defaulters

As tumbling property values push more and more borrowers underwater, the number that are opting to walk away from their mortgage obligation, even if they can afford the payments, is growing. This idea of strategic default has become a universal concern within the industry, and there are some lawmakers who are pushing to impose penalties on those that walk away. House Republicans have passed a provision that would make homeowners who strategically default ineligible for an FHA-insured loan in the future.

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Mortgage Rates Hold Steady at Record Lows

Still lingering near record lows, mortgage rates for the week ending June 17, 2010 were fairly level with last week's averages, Freddie Mac and Bankrate reported Thursday. According to Freddie Mac, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.75 percent this week, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.2 percent--both up slightly from last week. Bankrate, though, said 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.88 percent this week, unchanged from last week, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.32, a slight dip from last week.

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Federal Task Force Arrests 485 for Mortgage Fraud

The Justice Department Thursday announced the results of the largest mortgage fraud sweep in history. Since the nationwide crackdown began in March, Feds have gone after 1,215 criminal defendants who are allegedly responsible for more than $2.3 billion in losses. So far, 485 arrests have been made, and they say there will be hundreds more in the coming weeks. In addition to the arrests made, the Justice Department says the operation has resulted in 191 civil enforcement actions and the recovery of more than $147 million.

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Veros Delivers Electronic Appraisals to Investors

Veros Real Estate Solutions said Wednesday that its technology platforms for delivering appraisals to mortgage and property investors adhere to the MISMO 2.6 format and meet new industry requirements for electronic appraisal data delivery. The company says this capability will result in new levels of appraisal quality and collateral documentation for all market participants and supports the industry's push for new levels of transparency.

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Integrated Asset Services Completes Leadership Transition

Integrated Asset Services, LLC (IAS) announced this week that it has completed a planned transition of the company's day-to-day management. Ryan Tomazin, formerly the company's CFO and COO, has moved into the role of president of IAS. As part of this transition, Dave McCarthy, who founded IAS in 1995, will be stepping down as CEO of the company.

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Taylor Bean Chairman Indicted on $2B Mortgage Fraud Scheme

The former chairman and majority owner of the now-defunct mortgage lender Taylor Bean & Whitaker was arrested Tuesday night in Ocala, Florida. Lee Bentley Farkas has been charged in a 16-count indictment for his alleged role in a $1.9 billion fraud scheme that the Department of Justice says contributed to the 2009 failures of both Taylor Bean, once the nation's largest non-depository mortgage lending company, and Colonial Bank, which at the time of its collapse was one of the 50 largest banks in the United States.

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Fitch Projects Steep Re-Default Rates on HAMP Modifications

The government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) has been widely criticized for its substandard results, and a new report from Fitch Ratings indicates that even the small successes it's made so far may soon be reversed. The company says that within 12 months, as many as 65 percent of the prime loans modified under the federal program will likely re-default. For modifications on subprime loans, the projection is even higher - 75 percent. What's worse is that Fitch called its estimates ""conservative.""

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Commercial Mortgage Performance Lags Due to Economic Weakness

Economic weakness continues to negatively impact commercial mortgage performance. As a result, delinquency rates increased for all commercial and multifamily mortgage investor groups in the first quarter of this year, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported Wednesday. MBA's data show that the percentage of past due loans held in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) hit 7.24 percent in Q1. It's the highest rate recorded by the trade group since it began tracking the sector in 1997.

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Senate Approves Extension of Tax Credit Closing Deadline

The U.S. Senate has passed an amendment that would extend the closing deadline of the homebuyer tax credit by three months. Right now, qualifying homebuyers who were under contract by April 30 have until June 30 to close the deal. But because of the large volume of applications for lenders to process, concerns have begun to surface that some buyers may miss out on the tax break simply because of the backlogged pipeline. The Senate's amendment would extend the window to complete transactions to September 30.

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Fannie and Citi Offer Mortgage Relief to BP Oil Spill Victims

Mortgage companies are beginning to step up and offer some relief to homeowners whose livelihood has been impacted by the BP oil spill off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Fannie Mae has issued an announcement suggesting its servicers immediately suspend or reduce mortgage payments for borrowers whose properties or income have been affected by the spill. CitiMortgage is suspending foreclosures and REO evictions in coastal areas of the Gulf until September 17.

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