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Bay State Foreclosures Jump 13% in February

The number of foreclosures started by lenders in Massachusetts during the month of February increased 13.2 percent from the prior month but was down 7.5 percent from a year ago, according to the Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate research firm. The company noted that in the last six months, the pace of foreclosure petitions has been considerably lower than in the early part of 2008.

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CitiFinancial to Pay $1.25 Million Penalty for Failing to Report Loans

State regulators have announced a 35-state settlement agreement with CitiFinancial, after a recent examination conducted by the Massachusetts Division of Banks found that the company failed to report 91,127 residential mortgage loans to the federal government as required by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). As part of the agreement, CitiFinancial has agreed to pay a penalty totaling $1.25 million.

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White House Adds Help for Underwater, Unemployed to Housing Plan

The administration unveiled major expansions to its foreclosure prevention plan Friday. The new policies include principal write-downs for underwater mortgages, an FHA negative equity refinancing program, temporary assistance for unemployed homeowners, and larger incentives for short sales and deeds-in-lieu. Treasury officials say the new program enhancements will better align efforts to meet President Obama's goal of helping 3 to 4 million borrowers save their homes.

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Gov. Schwarzenegger Extends $10K Homebuyer Tax Credit in California

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed AB 183, which will provide a tax credit of up to $10,000 to Californians who are buying their first home or purchasing a newly-built home. The bill gives the Franchise Tax Board authority to extend a total of $200 million in tax credits to California homebuyers--$100 million for first-time buyers of existing homes and another $100 million for buyers of new, unoccupied homes.

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White House to Announce Plan to Cut Mortgage Principals

The Obama administration plans to announce a major new housing initiative Friday involving principal write-downs for underwater borrowers and temporary assistance for unemployed homeowners, according to sources. It's expected that principal reduction will become a central consideration in Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) evaluations, with additional incentives going to servicers who trim mortgage debt for those who owe more than their home is worth. The plan will also require lenders to temporarily reduce monthly mortgage payments for those borrowers who have lost their jobs.

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Asset Management Firm in Denver Acquires Business from Credit Suisse

Big 5 Asset Management, an alternative asset management firm based in Denver, announced Thursday that it has acquired a real estate securities fund launched by Credit Suisse. Renamed the Rhino Income Opportunity Fund, it will continue to invest in preferred shares of real estate investment trusts (REITs) and will also join Big 5 Asset Management's flagship global long-short equity fund, Lion Global.

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Texas Posts Nation’s Largest Monthly Foreclosure Increase: Study

Texas claimed the biggest increase in foreclosures during the month of February with a rise of 35.3 percent, according to new data published by ForeclosureListings.com. Posting the second largest increase was Michigan, where foreclosures jumped 17.54 percent during the month. California came in at No. 3, followed by Florida. The report did note some signs of improvement, with foreclosures actually declining in such states as Georgia and Arkansas.

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Wolters Kluwer Launches RESPA Audit Service

In an effort to help financial institutions overcome the challenges faced in complying with the recent changes to the Real Estate Procedures Act (RESPA), Minneapolis-based Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, a compliance, content, and technology solutions and services provider, has launched its new RESPA Post-Implementation Audit Service.

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MCS Launches Broker360 to Reduce REOs’ Time on Market

Mortgage Contracting Services (MCS) has launched Broker360, a Web-based portal that allows REO brokers to access the status of preservation work completed by MCS. The company says its approach greatly enhances communication between servicers, field service providers, and real estate agents, and in turn will help reduce the amount of time it takes to market and sell REO properties.

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