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Existing-Home Sales Dip in February as Prices Rise, Inventories Increase

Existing-home sales fell in February from an upwardly revised January sales pace, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Wednesday. February sales - completed transactions - were down 0.9 percent from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million. January's total was revised up to 4.63 million from 4.57 million. The February 2012 sales pace was up 8.8 percent from February 2011. The median price of an existing home in February was $156,600, up 0.1 percent from the previous month and up 0.3 percent from February 2011. The month-over-month price increase was the first since last June.

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GSEs Complete Nearly 1.1M Mods but Number of Mods Still Declining

Since the September 2008 conservatorship, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have completed nearly 1.1 million permanent loan modifications, according to the FHFA's latest foreclosure prevention report. Data from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency show that in the two years ending in the third quarter of 2011, modifications on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans accounted for 40 percent of all loan modifications. Overall, the GSEs have completed more than 2.1 million foreclosure prevention actions since being taken over by the federal government.

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Violence Against Real Estate Pros Prompts Trade Group to Take Action

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) has reached an agreement with Agent Alarm LLC, a national security company, that aims to address and curb the recent wave of attacks and acts of violence against real estate professionals in America. One of the most serious attacks in 2011 resulted in the death of Vivian Martin, a local real estate agent living and working in Youngstown, Ohio. Martin was beaten to death by three men in an abandoned home who were posing as potential buyers looking to purchase a home she had listed.

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Fannie: Single-Family Rental Growth Won’t Infringe on Multifamily

As the government begins to tiptoe into the REO-to-rental arena after many months' deliberation and input from thousands of industry participants, Fannie Mae released a data note on the single-family rental market. Single-family renting increased by 2.7 percentage points from 2005 to 2010; multifamily renters decreased by about as much, 3 percent. This may suggest the single-family rental sector is cutting into the multifamily market share, but Fannie says the single-family renter doesn't fit the demographic that typically drives multifamily demand.

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New Valuation Product Combines Three BPOs

Valuation Vision, based in California, has released a new valuation product that relies on the assessments of not one but three real estate professionals. BPOMerge offers servicers and investors a comprehensive report with broker price opinions (BPOs) from three real estate agents. MergeValue then analyzes the comparables the agents relied on and employs advanced algorithms to calculate a single price based on all the data from the agents. Each agent's comparables are weighted by the agent's performance metrics.

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Sales in California Up in February, Median Prices Down

Home sales in California showed signs of improvement for February compared to the previous month of January and year before in February 2011, according to data from the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.). For February, sales were up 2.1 percent from January's revised 517,120 and up 5.5 percent from the revised 500,480 sales pace recorded a year ago. While the state followed the national trend of declining home prices, C.A.R. reported other signs are pointing towards stabilization.

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Fed Study: Overpriced Foreclosures Hiking REO Carrying Costs

Appraisers, lenders, and investors appear to be routinely overestimating the values of homes prior to foreclosure, especially in the weakest housing markets, according to two economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Their report suggests that more accurate pricing could speed the clearing of REO inventories, save lenders money by reducing the carrying costs associated with bank-owned homes, and bring greater stability to housing markets across the country.

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FHFA Criticized for Arguments Used Against Principal Reduction

The FHFA's decision to not allow for principal reductions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans came under sharp criticism during a Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday. John DiIorio, CEO of 1st Alliance Lending, a mortgage origination firm, argued in support of principal reduction, even when analyzing the benefits from a bottom-line perspective, not simply as a form of aid. Laurie Goodman, senior managing director of Amherst Securities, said there were a number of flaws in an FHFA study used to defend the decision to not apply principal forgiveness, and discussed three major criticisms and ""technical flaws.""

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Foreclosure Inventory Down From a Year Ago, Up From Previous Month

While foreclosure inventory showed a year-over-year decline for January 2012, REO inventory held by servicers grew faster in January than the pace at which REO properties sold, according to CoreLogic's National Foreclosure Report for January 2012. The distressed clearing ratio, which calculates the rate at which REO properties are sold, was 0.69 for January 2012, down from 0.80 in December 2011. A higher ratio indicates a faster pace of REO sales relative to the pace of completed foreclosures. On a year-over-year basis, the number of foreclosures actually dropped, going from 80,000 in January 2011 to 69,000 in January 2012, according to CoreLogic's National Foreclosure Report.

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Foreclosure Activity for Judicial vs. Non-Judicial States Flip-Flopped

Depending on whether the data was based on a judicial or non-judicial state, foreclosure activity told differing stories in RealtyTrac's Foreclosure Market Report released today for February 2012. When clumping states together based on foreclosure processes, February foreclosure activity in the 26 judicial states increased 24 percent from February 2011 and 2 percent from the previous month of January. For the 24 non-judicial states, the numbers moved in near opposite directions, with foreclosure activity decreased to 23 percent from February 2011 and down 5 percent from January, according to a RealtyTrac release.

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