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RealtyTrac: Foreclosure Activity Falls to Lowest Level Since 2007

Despite a monthly uptick in foreclosure starts, first quarter foreclosure activity fell to a six-year low, according to RealtyTrac's foreclosure market report for the first quarter and March. Data from RealtyTrac showed 442,117 properties received some type of foreclosure filing in Q1. The figure represents the lowest level since Q2 2007 and a quarterly and yearly decrease of 12 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, foreclosure starts, which numbered 73,113 in March, moved higher for the second straight month and posted a 2 percent increase from February.

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Clunk, Hoose and Associates Expands with New Florida Office

The Law Offices of Clunk, Hoose and Associates, PA announced the opening of a new full-service office in Hollywood, Florida. Firm partners John D. Clunk and Robert R. Hoose, along with attorney Shan P. Massand, will lead the new practice, which aims to bring cost-effective default management services to lenders and servicers in the South Florida market.

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Field Asset Services Introduces Flexible Mobile Survey

Field Asset Services (FAS), a provider of pre-foreclosure, REO, and renovation field services to mortgage servicers and investors, announced the release of Flexible Mobile Survey, an add-on to the company's FAStrack Mobile platform. Flexible Mobile Survey assists field asset vendors by delivering a customized work order in the form of a survey directly to their smart phone.

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RealtyTrac: Top Markets for Single-Family Rentals

With institutional investors playing a major role in the home-buying market as they snagged tens of thousands of homes in 2012, RealtyTrac set to work to determine which markets still offer the best opportunities for investors intending to purchase single-family homes to rent. Topping the list of top 20 markets were Memphis, Tennessee; Saginaw, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; Ocala, Florida; and Las Vegas, Nevada. In Memphis, Tennessee, the median sales price for a three-bedroom home is $72,605, and investors can expect a cash purchase capitalization rate of 10.38 percent.

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Activity from First-Time Homebuyers Increases in February

Interest from first-time homebuyers is steadily growing due to concerns over rising interest rates and prices, while investor interest remains strong, according to results from the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey. The survey found first-time homebuyers accounted for 34.5 percent of home purchase transactions in February, leading to the second monthly increase. Meanwhile, investor purchases reached a four-month high after accounting for 34.5 percent of transactions in February, according to the survey results.

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CoreLogic Reports Double-Digit Price Growth in February

CoreLogic's Home Price Index (HPI) posted its largest annual increase in nearly seven years in February. When including distressed sales (short sales and REO transactions), home prices in February increased by 10.2 percent from February 2012, the data provider reported Wednesday. The annual gain marks the largest increase since March 2006. From January to February, prices still moved in a positive direction, but rose by just 0.5 percent.

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Performance Improves After Servicing Transfers Across Industry

Since the housing crisis, many large banks have sold off servicing portfolios to smaller, emerging companies. According to a recent study, these portfolios often begin to perform better after the transfers. Opera Solutions found faster liquidations and better long-term performance for modified loans after portfolios were sold. According to the study, two servicers stand out for acquiring the ""lion's share"" of servicing rights--Ocwen and Nationstar. At Ocwen, which acquired the most loans, the study detected higher levels of foreclosures and REO rates immediately following acquisitions. However, after a period of months, Ocwen's portfolios stabilized and improved.

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Foreclosed Properties Damage Quality of Life for Neighbors

Since the foreclosure crisis, several studies have linked foreclosures to falling property values for neighboring homes. However, one researcher from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently set out to discover the impact of foreclosed properties on neighbors who aren't looking to sell their homes. The study found the likelihood of a neighbor complaining about a particular home doubles once a homeowner enters the foreclosure process. Once a property is in REO, the likelihood increases nine-fold, according to the study.

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Shrinking Rental Yields to Drive Out Investors, but Not This Year

Lower rental yields might cause investors to lose interest in the housing market, but according to Capital Economics, that scenario is unlikely to play out this year. Currently, the increase in home prices is outpacing the rise in rents, which ""is weighing on rental yields,"" the firm noted in a report authored by the property economist Paul Diggle. However, Capital Economics stated the reduction in rental yields is actually ""very gradual"" and the ""the total return from housing remains attractive."" Thus, investors, who analysts say are driving the recovery, are not expected to exit the market just yet.

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Top Mortgage and Housing Execs Engage to Promote Progress

Industry leaders gathered in Las Colinas, Texas, Thursday for the Five Star Institute's 2013 REO and Short Sale Executive Summit to discuss issues and market conditions impacting the distressed asset space. A number of the nation's leading financial institutions and government agencies were represented at the event designed to facilitate open dialogue and collaboration for developing solutions to today's most pressing REO and short sale challenges.

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