Mortgage applications surge amid record-low rates

Mortgage loan applications surged 23% last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, as record-low interest rates convinced many homeowners it was time to refinance into lower-cost loans.

Freddie Mac: Speedy Recovery Seems Unlikely in 2012

“Perspectives on the housing market
depend on where you sit,” according to Freddie Mac’s U.S.
Economic and Housing Market Outlook

for January.  The monthly forecast noted
that existing home sales increased in November, the inventory of unsold homes
decreased to a six to seven month supply, and Freddie Mac’s economists predict
home sales will grow between 2 and 5 percent in 2012. 

But
there is “a historically large gap between sentiments of buyers and sellers.”  Nearly 80 percent of American households
believe it is a good time to buy a home, but sellers are not as happy, with
only 7.6 percent who responded to a Mortgage Bankers Association survey
believing that it is a good time to sell. 
If this gap doesn’t narrow, Freddie Mac’s economists say, the
housing-market recovery will be delayed.

The monthly report titled Toasting the New Year with a Glass Half Full
concludes that, while the economy is undoubtedly in a better place that the
same time a year ago, a speedy recovery still seems unlikely this year. 

Other highlights of the Outlook

  • Economic growth will likely
    strengthen to about 2.1 percent in the first quarter.
  • The current U.S. unemployment rate
    of 8.5 percent is likely to increase after seasonal gains are reversed.
  • Mortgage rates are projected to
    remain very low, at least in the beginning of 2012.

Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac, vice
president and chief economist said, “With the new year comes a sense of
cautious optimism. There are some positive signs in the job market and consumer
confidence; housing is starting to raise hopes for continued gradual economic
recovery. But the economy still is giving some mixed messages.”

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Strauss-Kahn House Reduced Again

The luxurious TriBeCa townhouse made famous during Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s extended stay as a criminal defendant in Manhattan has suffered the indignity of a third price cut—this time to $11.995 million.

First Round of Pilot Rental Initiative Completed with 2,500 Homes Sold

The first round of winners has been
selected to purchase foreclosed real estate from Freddie Mac and Fannie
Mae.  The Federal Housing Finance Agency
(FHFA) announced today that 2,500 single family homes had been awarded to successful
bidders under a pilot initiative to convert real estate acquired by the two
government sponsored enterprises (GSE) through foreclosure into rental property. 

Successful candidates for purchasing properties
from the GSE’s real estate portfolio (REO) had undergone several steps in a
qualification process before being permitted to bid on the houses which they had
to agree to hold and rent for a period of time before reselling. 

The properties were offered in sale
pools which were geographically concentrated in various locations across the
United States.  The GSEs, FHFA and other federal
agencies involved, Departments of Treasury, Housing and Urban Development,
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve, had several
goals
for the program.  They hoped to
relieve the GSEs of the costs and administrative burdens of managing thousands
of foreclosed properties, alleviate the blight imposed on communities by large
number of vacant and possibly deteriorating properties, increase the rental
stock, while at the same time not flooding the market with distressed
properties.

 FHFA described the response to the pilot
initiative as “robust with strong qualified bidder interest.”  Some 4,000 responses were received to the
initial “Request for Information” issued by the program sponsors last February,
however beyond announcing that the awards had been made FHFA released no
information on the names or even the numbers of successful bidders.

“FHFA
undertook this initiative to help stabilize communities and home values in
areas hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis,” said Edward J. DeMarco, Acting
Director of FHFA. “As conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we believe
this pilot program will assist us in achieving our objectives and help to
maximize the benefit to taxpayers. We are pleased with the response from the
market and look forward to closing transactions in the near future.”

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David H. Stevens Staying at MBA

Slightly more than a month after it confirmed
he was leaving his post as President and CEO, the Mortgage Bankers Association
(MBA) announced that David H. Stevens would remain at the head of the trade
association.  Steven’s resignation and
appointment as president of Sun Trust Mortgage was announced by both MBA and
the parent company of his new employer, Sun Trust Bank, on May 30.  The announcement came almost simultaneous
with Steven’s first year anniversary with MBA.

In a statement released this morning MBA
said they were pleased to announce that Stevens “has agreed to stay on as
President and CEO.”  MBA Chairman Michael
W. Young said that, “Over the past several
weeks, MBA’s leadership, members and staff impressed upon Dave the important
role he was playing for the industry and his unique qualifications to lead the
association.  The importance and
significance of MBA’s voice during this critical time coupled with Dave’s
experience and talents encouraged us to do all we could to retain him.”

“The past few weeks have been extremely
difficult for me personally and professionally,” Stevens said.  “After serious thought and consideration, I
simply cannot leave the MBA at such a critical time for the industry and the
association.  Frankly, at the end of the
day, stepping away now when so much progress is being made and so much still
left to be done, did not feel right.

 “Going
through this experience left me encouraged by the tremendous opportunity that
lies within our industry and reinforced the essential component mortgage
finance will continue to play in helping our nation’s economy recover.” he
noted.  

Stevens joined MBA in May 2011 after serving as Assistant
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Commissioner of the Federal
Housing Administration (FHA). 

Mr. Stevens was to have joined the Company on July 16, reporting to SunTrust Mortgage President and CEO Jerome Lienhard.

“We have a strong leadership team in place, and continue to execute our business plan and serve the needs of the clients of SunTrust Mortgage,” said Mr. Lienhard.

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