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Fed Identifies Markets Primed for Bulk REO-to-Rental Programs

The Federal Reserve is throwing its support behind a large-scale REO-to-rental program to address the oversupply of vacant homes and prevent property values from falling further. The Fed notes that in contrast to the market for owner-occupied homes, rental housing is strengthening. Officials say a government-facilitated program has the potential to help the housing market and improve loss recoveries. They've identified specific markets with large concentrations of vacant REOs, where bulk sales to investors make sense.

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Equator Addresses Servicers’ Needs with Focus on Compliance

In the servicing sector, compliance was the buzz word in the fourth quarter of 2011, according Equator, a leading software provider for the default servicing industry. And compliance will continue to be top-of-mind throughout 2012, according to the company. ""The needs of our clients have focused on the demands for stricter compliance and Infrastructure Security,"" said John Vella, COO of Equator. Having released its short sale module in 2009, Equator has initiated almost 1.2 million short sales as of the fourth quarter of 2011.

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Wipro Gallagher Tailors Product Offerings for Market Segments

Wipro Gallagher Solutions (WGS), a provider of end-to-end lending solutions for financial institutions, has redefined its fulfillment offerings to better meet the demands of middle- and top-tier lenders and their servicers. WGS has revised its business process outsourcing (BPO) packages depending on the lender's volume of originations and service offerings, with solutions tailored to fulfill clients' specific needs.

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Pending Home Sales Highest in Over a Year-and-a-Half

Pending home sales continued to rise in November, reaching their highest level in 19 months, the National Association of Realtors reported. The trade group's index of signed sales contracts jumped 7.3 percent between October and November and is 5.9 percent above its level a year earlier. The last time the index was higher was in April 2010 as buyers rushed to beat the deadline for the homebuyer tax credit. Analysts say the results are likely to feed the view that there is a recovery going on in the housing market.

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Serious Delinquencies Decline, Foreclosure Rates Steady

Serious delinquencies are on the decline, according to a recent report from Foreclosure-Response.org, a joint venture of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Urban Institute, and the Center for Housing Policy. Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the study found serious delinquencies declined from 10.4 percent at their December 2009 peak to 9.3 percent by mid-2011. At the same time, foreclosure completions have steadied at 5.5 percent - but this leveling could prove problematic for recovery.

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Home Prices Continue to Slide in Case-Shiller Index

Data released last week by Standard & Poor's indicates the fourth quarter of 2011 started with broad-based declines in home prices. The 20-city composite of S&P's closely watched Case-Shiller index was down 1.2 percent in October versus September. Home prices dropped in 19 of the 20 cities covered by the S&P/Case-Shiller Index. Phoenix was the only metro to see a month-over-month increase. Looking at the year-over-year comparisons, S&P says home prices are down more than 3 percent.

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FHA Waives Anti-Flipping Rule Through Year-End to Speed REO Sales

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is extending the temporary waiver of its property anti-flipping rule. FHA rules typically prohibit insuring a mortgage on a home owned by the seller for less than 90 days. In 2010, however, the agency waived this regulation, and later extended the waiver through 2011. This latest extension permits the use of FHA-insured financing for HUD-owned and bank-owned properties, no matter how long the homeowner has held the title, through December 31, 2012.

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Study Finds 38% of Homes Purchased in 2011 Bought with Cash

Despite record low mortgage rates, 2011 has seen a surprisingly high level of cash home purchases, according to the real estate research firm Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. Analysts with the company say between tight lending standards and a desperate search for yield by investors, cash purchases of homes - particularly for distressed properties - are becoming more common. The company's study found 38 percent of homes purchased in 2011 were bought with all cash.

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CEO’s Corner: A New Year for Our Industry

With a New Year comes new challenges for our industry - and the promise of a better tomorrow. For homeowners. For our economy. For our nation. As it does for many Americans, a New Year offers the mortgage lending and servicing industry a chance to take a step back and reflect. The message we should take from 2011 is clear: The American Dream of homeownership is far from over. Americans want to own their slice of the dream, and one nightmare - namely, a financial crisis - will do anything but soften the strength and ingenuity of a time-tested people.

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Economists Don’t Foresee Home Price Appreciation Until After 2013

Home prices are expected to post a decline of 1.57 percent for the fourth quarter of 2011, after falling 0.4 percent through September, according to more than 100 economists and housing experts surveyed by Zillow. Prices are forecast to decline until the market's bottom is reached in late 2012 or early 2013. After 2013, panelists expect a steady annual appreciation rate of roughly 3 percent through 2016, which is slightly below appreciation rates experienced during the pre-bubble years.

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