HUD CHARGES MASSACHUSETTS APARTMENT BUILDING OWNER WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging the owner of a 24-unit apartment building in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with housing discrimination for denying units to families that have children. HUD’s charge alleges that Nilma Fichera, who owns and manages New York-based N.A.G. Realty, LLC, violated the Fair Housing Act when she refused to show or rent apartments to families with children because she could not certify that the building was free of lead-based paint.

The ‘New American Home’ Continues Shrinking

Timberlake Cabinetry
This year’s selection for the ‘New American Home.’ It will be featured at the annual builders’ show in Orlando.

The “New American Home” is shrinking.

Every year at its convention, the National Association of Home Builders highlights the New American Home, a high-end model designed and built to capture emerging trends in residential building and the shifting lifestyles of Americans.

This year’s showpiece, which measures 4,181 square feet and is one of the smallest in the popular program’s 29-year history, shows that the love affair with McMansions seems to be waning.

Indeed, last year’s featured home sprawled over 6,800 square feet. The nation’s average home size, which peaked just above 2,500 square feet in 2007, is expected to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015.

Of course, even the downsized New American Home remains above average. It was built in an infill Orlando location within walking distance of shops and restaurants. Many Americans, builders have learned, are fed up with pricey gas and lengthy commutes.

The showpiece, described as a modern take on the classic “boxes” of the 1960s and ’70s, has two bedrooms, and features additional rooms that could house parents or boomerang kids — those moving back home because of the weak economy. It also boasts energy-efficient features such solar panels to run the HVAC system and to heat hot water.

This year’s New American Home will be displayed between Feb. 8 and 11, when thousands of builders and suppliers head to the International Builders’ Show, the nation’s largest gathering of such professionals. (The NAHB, the builders’ main trade group, declined to give attendance projections.) The home is usually the site of several soirees and receives lots of press. The caterer might want to stock extra bubbly – industry watchers say the hard-hit sector has finally struck the long-awaited bottom.

But being chosen for this honor doesn’t guarantee success. Two years ago, the 6,800-square-foot, five bedroom Las Vegas showpiece fell into foreclosure after a private investor pulled out.

Last year, foreclosure wasn’t an issue because the Orlando home, measuring 9,689 square feet with three bedrooms and an in-law suite, was sold before the show started. (View previous New American homes.)

This year’s builder decided to keep the house as a showcase for clients, said Tucker Bernard, who helps oversee the New American Home program for the NAHB.

‘American Stuffers’ Family: Warm Hearts and Freeze-Dried Pets

Taxidermy is the wholesome family business at the center of “American Stuffers,” a reality TV show on Animal Planet.



CoreLogic: Home Prices Show Third Consecutive Monthly Increase

Home prices were up for the third
consecutive month
in May as measured by CoreLogic’s Home Price Index
(HPI.)  The three months of increases were
noted for both annual and month-over-month numbers.

The HPI increased by 1.8 percent
compared to April figures and was 2.0 percent higher in May 2012 than in May
2011.  Those numbers are for all home
sales including those of distressed homes, both short sales and real estate
owned (REO) transactions.

When distressed sales are removed from
the calculation home prices were up year-over-year by 2.7 percent and were 2.3
percent higher in May than in April. 
This is the fourth consecutive month-over-month increase.

CoreLogic’s forward-looking Pending HPI
which is based on Multiple Listing Service data measuring price changes in the
most recent month indicates that house prices, including distressed sales, will
rise by at least 1.4 percent from May to June and by 2.0 percent if distressed
sales are not included.

“The recent upward trend in
U.S. home prices is an encouraging signal that we may be seeing a bottoming of
the housing down cycle,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and chief
executive officer of CoreLogic. “Tighter inventory is contributing to
broad, but modest, price gains nationwide and more significant gains in the
harder-hit markets, like Phoenix.”

“Home price appreciation in the
lower-priced segment of the market is rebounding more quickly than in the upper
end,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Home prices
below 75 percent of the national median increased 5.7 percent from a year ago,
compared to only a 1.8 percent increase for prices 125 percent or more of the
median.”

Since home prices peaked in April
2006 the national HPI including all sales has fallen 30.1 percent and non-distressed
sale prices are down 22.2 percent.

The highest price appreciation
including distressed sales was seen in Arizona (12.0 percent), Idaho (9.2
percent) and South Dakota (8.7 percent). 
When distressed sales are excluded the greatest appreciation was noted
in Montana (9.1 percent), South Dakota (8.5 percent), and Arizona (7.3
percent).

…(read more)

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Mortgage Suspicious Activy Reports (SARs) Continue to Emerge from Pre-2008 Loans

Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) related
to suspected mortgage loan fraud (MLF) filed by depository institutions decreased
sharply in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011 even
as SARs increased overall.  Data on these
MLF SARs filings was released Tuesday by the Treasury Department’s Financial
Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

There were 17,651 MLF SARs filed during
the quarter compared to 25,484 one year earlier, a decrease of 31 percent.  At the same time there were 205,301 SARs of
all types, an increase of 10 percent from 186,331 in the first quarter of
2011.  MLFs represented 14 percent of all
SAR filings in that earlier period compared to 9 percent in the January-March
2012 period.

FinCEN said there was an unusual spike
in MLF SARs
filings during the first three quarters of 2011.  These arose primarily out of mortgage
repurchase demands on banks which prompted a review of loan origination
documents and subsequent detection of suspected fraud.  Filings in early 2012 show that problems
continue to emerge from loans originated in the pre-2009 period which accounted
for the majority of delinquencies and foreclosures experienced since 2008.

Of the MLF SARs filed in the first
quarter, 28 percent related to loans that were four to five years old and 44
percent to loans that were more than five years from their origination data.  One year ago 79 percent were three or more
years old. 

While only a minority of filers included
loss totals and fewer did so in 2012 than in 2011, more than 80 percent of the
losses reported were for amounts under $500,000.  Very few filings (51 in 2012) reported any recovery
of losses.

Numbers of SAR were logically the
largest in the largest states – California, Florida, New York, and
Illinois.  On a per capita basis California
was in first place as it was during all of 2011.  Nevada ranked second, rising from fifth place
in 2011 and Florida was third.  Los
Angeles had the highest number of MLF SARs of any of the large metropolitan
areas both by volume and on a per capita basis. 
Two other California MSAs, the Riverside area and San Jose-Sunnyvale
were second and third on a per capital basis followed by Las Vegas and Miami.

To determine the latest trends in
suspected mortgage fraud FinCEN examined a subset of MLF SARs filings reporting
activities that were less than two years old.  Nineteen percent of 3,354 MLF SARs filed during
the first quarter met this criterion and FinCEN examined a sample of 334 or ten
percent.  The largest category of
suspected fraud was defined as income followed by occupancy, employment, and
debt elimination.  Compared to the Q1
2011 report, debt elimination fraud increased as did foreclosure rescue scams
while appraisal fraud was down. 

FinCen reported an increasing number of
SARs that appeared to involve “repeat subjects.”  For example, several foreclosure rescue scam
reports
noted that numerous borrowers had complained about the subject
organizations.  The same was true of some
SARs related to proposed debt relief services. 
Filers also noted several short sale SARs subjects who had been involved
in numerous fraudulent transactions. 
This information could provide useful information to law enforcement.

FinCen also identified fraud patterns not
noted in other reports.  One was homeowners
insurance fraud where borrowers pocketed insurance payments after home fires
and another, “Keys for Cash” where persons moved into bank owned properties
claiming to have long term leases.  Their
true objective appeared to be inducing lenders into paying them to vacate the
properties.

In a related matter, the Department of
Justice and the offices of the Inspector General for both the Department of Housing
and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency held mortgage
fraud summits
in two cities on Tuesday to help protect homeowners in areas
hardest hit by mortgage scams.  A third
summit slated for Tallahassee, Florida is being rescheduled because of severe
weather in the area.  The summits were
organized by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s (FFETF)
Mortgage Fraud Working Group of which FinCEN is a member.  

“Preventing, detecting and
prosecuting mortgage fraud is a top priority of the Financial Fraud Enforcement
Task Force and its Mortgage Fraud Working Group members,” said FFETF Executive
Director Michael Bresnick. “It’s more important than ever that we arm
homeowners with the information they need to recognize the predators up front
and empower them to avoid falling victim to these devastating scams. That’s why
the task force is holding these summits in states hit hardest by the
foreclosure crisis.”

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