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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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Treasury Adds New Consumer Protections to HAMP

The administration's foreclosure prevention plan has come under heavy fire lately, with critics taking aim at everything from the program's slow conversion rates to servicers' lack of response to borrower and counselor requests. To counter all the flying bullets, a Treasury official told lawmakers Thursday that the administration is instituting new consumer protections into the program, including requiring servicers to evaluate all borrowers who've missed at least two payments and prohibiting foreclosure proceedings until it's determined borrowers are HAMP-ineligible.

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Citi Agrees to Participate in Second Lien Program

Citi announced Thursday that it has committed to participate in the administration's second lien modification program (2MP). The New-York based global financial services company is the fourth major servicer to sign on to the program, which was introduced nearly a year ago. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase have also agreed to participate in the program. Together, these four servicers own $400 billion of the nation's $1 trillion second lien mortgage market.

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As Bond Yields Rise, Mortgage Rates Inch Up

Although the change in activity was minor, mortgage rates nudged up for the week ending March 25, 2010, Freddie Mac and Bankrate reported Thursday. According to the results of Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS), 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.99 percent. And Bankrate said 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.11 percent.

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Realtors Fight Pennsylvania Governor’s Tax on Real Estate Services

Members of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (PAR) rallied at the state Capitol Wednesday to voice their opposition to Gov. Ed Rendell's proposal to tax professional real estate services. Rendell has been on a push for several weeks now to drum up support for his new tax plan that would place a levy on goods and services that are currently exempt from the state sales tax, including services provided in the course of real estate transactions.

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