Fannie, Freddie Recommend Foreclosed-Property Sales Resume – WSJ.com

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have begun telling real-estate agents nationwide to resume sales of foreclosed properties that had been suspended after document-handling problems surfaced over the past two months.

Fannie said Friday it had lifted a moratorium on foreclosed-property sales following a review of the affected properties it has acquired and after consulting with its government regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It was unclear how quickly sales would resume because loan servicers are still completing their reviews of paperwork.

“Our decision was motivated by several factors including the protection of buyers with title insurance, the negative impact lingering foreclosed properties has on neighborhoods and the cost burden that is placed on taxpayers when [bank-owned] sales are suspended,” said a Fannie Mae spokeswoman.

Fannie and Freddie owned nearly 240,000 properties at the end of September, valued at nearly $24 billion. Difficulty selling those homes could lead to higher carrying costs for the mortgage titans. Delays also could prompt buyers that had been under contract to lower their asking prices or to walk away from deals.

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Escrow Co. Sues Bank Over $440K Cyber Theft — Krebs on Security

An escrow firm in Missouri is suing its bank to recover $440,000 that organized cyber thieves stole in an online robbery earlier this year, claiming the bank’s reliance on passwords to secure high-dollar transactions failed to measure up to federal e-banking security guidelines.

The attack against Springfield, Mo. based title insurance provider Choice Escrow and Land Title LLC began late in the afternoon on St. Patrick’s Day, when hackers who had stolen the firm’s online banking ID and password used the information to make a single unauthorized wire transfer for $440,000 to a corporate bank account in Cyprus.

The following day, when Choice Escrow received a notice about the transfer from its financial institution — Tupelo, Miss. based BancorpSouth Inc. — it contacted the bank to dispute the transfer. But by the close of business on March 18, the bank was distancing itself from the incident and its customer, said Jim A. Payne, director of business development for Choice Escrow.

“What they really were doing is contacting their legal department and figuring out what they were going to say to us. It took them until 5 p.m. to call us back, and they basically said, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you. This is your responsibility.’”

“They said, ‘We’re going to get back to you, we’re working on it’,” Payne said. “What they really were doing is contacting their legal department and figuring out what they were going to say to us. It took them until 5 p.m. to call us back, and they basically said, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you. This is your responsibility.’”

How secure are your wire transfers? Do you have two forms of authentication? Might be something you want to look into.

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Existing-Home Sales Decline in October Following Two Monthly Gains

by Ted Jones of Stewart Title

Washington, DC, November 23, 2010

Existing-home sales retreated in October on the heels of two strong monthly gains, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in October from 4.53 million in September, and are 25.9 percent below the 5.98 million-unit level in October 2009 when sales were surging prior to the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Year-to-date there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9 percent from 4.272 million at this time in 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent sales pattern can be expected to continue. “The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales. Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal sustainable levels,” he said. “Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.23 percent in October from 4.35 percent in September; the rate was 4.95 percent in October 2009.

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $170,500 in October, down 0.9 percent from October 2009. Distressed homes3 accounted for 34 percent of sales in October, compared with 35 percent in September and 30 percent of sales in October 2009.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., clarified that several factors are restraining a housing recovery, even with great affordability conditions. “We’ll likely see some impact from the foreclosure moratorium in the months ahead, but overly tight credit is making it difficult for some creditworthy borrowers to qualify for a mortgage, and we are continuing to deal with a notable share of appraisals coming in below a price negotiated between a buyer and seller,” he said.

“A return to common sense loan underwriting standards would go a long way toward achieving responsible, sustainable homeownership. In addition, all home valuations should be made by competent professionals with local expertise and full access to market data – there remains an elevated level of appraisals that fail to provide accurate valuation, which is causing a steady level of sales to be cancelled or postponed,” Phipps said.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows 10 percent of Realtors® in October report they had a contract cancelled as a result of a low appraisal, and 13 percent report they had a contract delayed; 16 percent said a contract was negotiated to a lower sales price as a result of a low appraisal.

According to FHFA, Fannie- and Freddie-backed mortgages that were recently originated show an outstanding performance, even better than during the pre-housing bubble years.

“A review of recently originated loans suggests that they have overly stringent underwriting standards, with only the highest creditworthy borrowers able to tap into historically low mortgage interest rates. There could be an upside surprise to sales activity if credit availability is opened to more qualified home buyers who are willing to stay well within budget,” Yun added.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.4 percent to 3.86 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.5-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in September.

First-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in October, unchanged from September, but down from 50 percent a year ago during the initial surge for the first-time buyer tax credit. Investors accounted for 19 percent of transactions in October; they were 18 percent in September and 14 percent in October 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 29 percent in October, unchanged from September but up from 20 percent a year ago.

Single-family home sales declined 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.89 million in October from 3.97 million in September, and are 25.6 percent below the 5.23 million surge in October 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $171,100 in October, which is 0.5 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 3.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 540,000 in October from 560,000 in September, and are 27.6 percent below the 746,000-unit sales rush a year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $166,000 in October, down 4.2 percent from October 2009.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3 percent to an annual pace of 750,000 in October and are 27.2 percent below the surge in October 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $240,200, which is 1.9 percent higher than a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 1.1 percent in October to a level of 940,000 and are 32.4 percent below the tax credit rush one year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $139,500, down 3.6 percent from October 2009.

In the South, existing-home sales fell 3.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.71 million in October and are 24.0 percent below the year-ago surge. The median price in the South was $148,700, down 0.7 percent from October 2009.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 1.9 percent to an annual level of 1.03 million in October and are 21.4 percent below the sales rush in October 2009 . The median price in the West was $209,300, which is 4.8 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

###

NOTE: NAR also tracks monthly comparisons of existing single-family home sales and median prices for 20 select metropolitan statistical areas, which is posted with other tables at: www.realtor.org/research/research/ehsdata. For information on areas not included in the report, please contact the local association of Realtors®.

1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which generally account for 85 to 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – more than 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

2The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.

3Distressed sales, contract cancellations, first-time buyers, investors and all-cash transactions data are from a survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index, scheduled to be posted December 6.

4Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).

5Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price generally is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.

Existing-home sales for November will be released December 22, and the next Pending Home Sales Index is scheduled for December 5; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.

REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are members of NAR.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section.

 

 

Ted C. Jones, PhD

 

Senior Vice President-Chief Economist, Stewart Title Guaranty Company

Director of Investor Relations, Stewart Information Services Corporation

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