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NAR’s Index of Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Climbs

Following a sharp drop in the months immediately after the homebuyer tax credit expired, the National Association of Realtors' gauge for future sales of previously owned homes has risen. NAR reported Thursday that its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in July, increased 5.2 percent from last month's reading. The month-to-month jump was an unexpected development, and some analysts say it may be a sign that the post-tax credit lull in home sales will soon come to an end.

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REOs the Topic du Jour in Washington

Neighborhoods across the country are riddled with empty bank-owned homes and unoccupied foreclosures that erode neighboring property values and open the door for blight and criminal activity. The nation's glut of vacant REOs took center stage in Washington Wednesday. HUD announced a new nationwide REO ""First Look"" program, in partnership with the nation's largest mortgage lenders, and it was the first of a two-day Federal Reserve summit to examine the community impacts of foreclosed and vacant properties.

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Los Angeles Adopts MERS System

As an alternative to its registry of foreclosed properties and property preservation contacts for vacant properties, the city of Los Angeles is adopting the MERS System, an electronic loan registry that acts as a nominee in county land records on behalf of lenders and servicers. MERS members can use the system to track both residential and commercial properties. Users tout the benefits of the technology as saving code enforcement officials and municipalities both time and money to ensure vacant properties are maintained.

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Housing Supply and Demand Won’t Balance until 2012: Moody’s

Moody's Investors Service says it expects home price appreciation to be ""soft"" for the next couple of years. The company says there were 1.8 million more vacant homes sitting on the market than what is considered the norm at the end of the second quarter, reflecting a rise in the number of homes that lenders are repossessing. According to Moody's, it will not be until 2012 that demand and supply conditions are balanced enough to drive price appreciation that matches the pace of inflation.

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LPS Reports a Jump in Foreclosure Starts in July

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) offered the industry a ray of hope when it reported Thursday that foreclosure starts were down nearly 10 percent in Q2, but the brightness quickly faded when Lender Processing Services (LPS) released its own dataset. MBA's numbers were based on data through the end of June. LPS reports that by the end of July, foreclosure starts had jumped back up by 24.5 percent. It's the fourth highest level ever recorded by the company.

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GSEs’ Single-Family Delinquency Rates Fall

The percentage of home loans 90 or more days past due held by the nation's two largest mortgage companies has declined yet again. Fannie Mae's single-family serious delinquency rate has fallen to 4.99 percent. It's the fourth straight month that Fannie has reported a decline. Freddie Mac's serious delinquencies dropped to 3.89 percent, the fourth decrease in five months. The reciprocated declines seem a welcome herald, but researchers say they're merely the consequence of an increase in GSE foreclosures.

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Foreclosures and Late-Stage Delinquencies Drop

Foreclosure starts dropped during the second quarter and the inventory of homes in the process of foreclosure fell for the first time since 2006, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Thursday. Loans 90 days or more past due also decreased. But it's a different story at the other end of the spectrum. After declining since the beginning of 2009, the number of 30-day delinquencies is going up. Overall, 13.97 percent of the nation's mortgages were delinquent or in foreclosure at the end of Q2, down from 14.01 percent three months earlier.

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Miami Area Foreclosures Reach 100K

Last Thursday, lenders reached 100,000 foreclosures in the tri-county South Florida region since the real estate crash began in 2007, according to the consulting firm CondoVultures.com. The company put South Florida's real estate crash into perspective by pointing out that lenders have repossessed an average of 75 properties per day since January 2007. The number of bank repossessions there are expected to decrease, though, since foreclosure filings for the year are down by roughly one-third compared to 2009.

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Real Property Management and RE/MAX Form Alliance

Real Property Management (RPM) and RE/MAX have agreed to exchange property and client referrals to assist renters, distressed homeowners, and investors. Through the agreement, RPM will connect RE/MAX agents with investors ready to sell, and RE/MAX agents will recommend clients to RPM who are ready to rent. RE/MAX agents may also refer properties to RPM for management. This alliance marks the first time a major real estate franchisor and one of the country's largest property management franchisors have joined forces, according to RE/MAX.

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Even Though Challenged by Delinquencies, U.S. Thrifts Post Q2 Profit

The U.S. thrift industry reported second-quarter earnings of $1.49 billion, its fourth consecutive quarterly profit. The industry consists of savings and loan institutions that by law are required to have at least 65 percent of their lending in mortgages and other consumer loans. With today's troubled housing market, their mandated line of business is proving precarious. The industry's regulator warns that thrifts continue to face challenges from delinquent loans, with the number of problem thrifts growing and overall assets declining.

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