Top News Of The Week

- Mnuchin: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Do Have a Future
- Homeownership Rate Stable, But Not For Millennials
- NAHB Pushes For Action on Canadian Softwood Lumber Deal
- Freddie Hits a ‘HomeOne’
- Spring Housing Market Heats Up — Some Sellers Cautious
- Seriously Underwater Properties Decline, But Not As Fast
- CFPB Closes ‘Black Hole’ In ‘Know Before You Owe’ Rules
- Mortgage Originations Drop Off in First Quarter
- March Home Prices Up By Biggest Margin in Four Years
- Buyers Growing More Discouraged About Availability
- Millennials Close on Loans Faster
- Why Underwater Homeowners Aren’t Walking Away
- Government Inaction Threat to Fair Housing
- Many First-Time Homebuyers Are Waiting For Their Chance
- Why It’s Becoming Easy to Hide Property Ownership
- Chinese Buyers To Get Help From Mandarin-Speaking Robots


Mnuchin: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Do Have a Future
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been under federal government conservatorship for over a decade, and there has been a lot of pressure on Congress to pass a comprehensive reform of the government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business that GSE reform is going to happen — just not this year:

Mnuchin would not speculate on what Freddie and Fannie could look like, under GSE reform.

Homeownership Rate Stable, But Not For Millennials
America’s homeownership rate held steady in the first quarter of 2018.

The government puts it at 64.2%, same as in the final quarter of 2017. It’s still below the peak of 69.2% reached in 2004. And it is still below the 25-year average of 66.3%.

Broken down by age, the Census Bureau data show that every age group saw an increase in homeownership except those at the youngest and oldest ends of the spectrum.

The Millennial homeownership rate fell to 35.3%, down from 36% in the final quarter of 2017.

NAHB Pushes For Action on Canadian Softwood Lumber Deal
The cost of building a home is tied to the price of lumber.

And softwood lumber prices continue to spiral upward, thanks largely to a 20% tariff on Canadian lumber.

Alex Strong, the Federal Legislative Director with the National Association of Home Builders, said in a recent webcast for NAHB members that lumber prices have reached new highs.

The NAHB is urging the administration to return to the bargaining table with Canada and work out a new softwood lumber agreement.

Freddie Hits a ‘HomeOne’
Freddie Mac is making it easier to get a low-down payment loan.

The company has introduced “HomeOne,” a new conventional 3-percent down program. It carries no income restrictions, and no limits on where the borrower lives.

Freddie Mac senior vice president Danny Gardner says HomeOne will allow lenders more flexibility in offering mortgage loans to borrowers anywhere in the country, including more of those who have trouble coming up with a down payment.

Spring Housing Market Heats Up — Some Sellers Cautious
We’ve heard that the competition for the few available homes is so fierce, buyers who don’t make an offer right away get left behind.

But such a frenzied atmosphere can hurt sellers. CNBC reports that competition is so fierce that more buyers are jumping at deals and then backing out.

Philadelphia REALTOR® Patrick Clark with Long and Foster told CNBC he uses a new selling strategy.

It remains to be seen if his strategy will work, as bidding wars have become the rule, not the exception.

Seriously Underwater Properties Decline, But Not As Fast
The number of American homeowners who are considered “seriously underwater” continue shrink.

But the number is shrinking slower than it has in at least five years.

So says ATTOM Data Solutions, in its first quarter U.S. Home Equity and Underwater Report.

“Seriously underwater,” as the company defines it, is a property whose value is at least 25% less than the total balance of loans on the property.

According to ATTOM Data Solutions’ report, 5.2 million properties are still seriously underwater.

CFPB Closes ‘Black Hole’ In ‘Know Before You Owe’ Rules
There has been an information “black hole” in the “Know Before You Owe” mortgage rules, critics say.

But there isn’t anymore.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it has fixed the problem, and as a result, there should be greater clarity in explaining to borrowers why closing costs can go up.

The amended rule adopted by the CFPB will make it clearer when a lender can pass along increased closing costs to consumers.

Mortgage Originations Drop Off in First Quarter
The number of new first-lien home loans dropped off sharply in the first quarter of the year.

Inside Mortgage Finance reports that mortgage origination volume dropped to its lowest level since the end of 2014.

First quarter originations were down 21-percent from the final quarter of 2017.

FHA, VA and private mortgage insurance activity all fell substantially, says Inside Mortgage Finance.

March Home Prices Up By Biggest Margin in Four Years
Home prices continued their upward spiral nationwide in March, rising by their largest margin in four years, according to the latest figures from Core Logic.

Molly Boesel is senior economist at CoreLogic.

Spring demand is heating up the market, and CoreLogic’s figures indicate that home prices may be rising more rapidly now.

Buyers Growing More Discouraged About Availability
American homebuyers are growing more discouraged about finding their dream home this summer.

That’s a key finding of a new survey by the National Association of Home Builders.

They asked people who said they’re planning to buy a home in the next 12 months if they think finding the right home will be easier, harder, or stay about the same.

Only 15% think it’ll get easier — and that’s only about half the share of people who said that at the end of 2017.

Nearly three out of four buyers say they expect the house search to get harder, or stay about the same.

Millennials Close on Loans Faster
Ah, the impatience of youth.

Ellie Mae reports, in its monthly Millennial Tracker, that tech-savvy Millennials are driving shorter closing times on home purchases.

According to Ellie Mae, the time it took Millennials to close mortgage loans for new home purchases in March fell to its fastest time yet — 39 days, down from 41 days in February.

Maybe they’re impatient because it’s taking them just a tad longer to get into homeownership — Ellie Mae’s latest report finds that the average age of a Millennial buyer is now 30.1, up from 29.5 a year ago.

Why Underwater Homeowners Aren’t Walking Away
During the housing crisis, many “underwater” homeowners made what were dubbed “strategic defaults” — they just stopped paying their mortgage and walked away from the house.

Today, nearly two million borrowers remain underwater — but this time around, borrowers are trying to keep up with their payments.

According to the New York Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Expectations, nearly 9 out of 10 underwater homeowners say they haven’t even considered stopping their monthly mortgage payments.

The number one reason people are staying: nearly 8 out of 10 said, “I like my home and don’t want to lose it.”

Government Inaction Threat to Fair Housing
2018 is the 50th anniversary year of the Fair Housing Act, and it’s a “pivotal year for fair housing,” says Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance.

In its 2018 Fair Housing Trends Report, the NFHA notes that the total number of fair housing complaints increased in 2017, compared to the previous year.

And the NFHA says the biggest obstacle to fair housing rights is the federal government’s failure to enforce the law vigorously.

Many First-Time Homebuyers Are Waiting For Their Chance
There’s a lot of pent-up demand for homes across the country.

A new survey by the National Association of Home Builders finds that 17% of respondents say they are planning to buy a home in the next 12 months.

And for nearly half of them, this will be their first home purchase.

Millennials were the likeliest generation to have plans to buy a home in the coming year, the survey finds. Seniors are the least likely.

Why It’s Becoming Easy to Hide Property Ownership
Limited liability companies are taking on a growing role in the nation’s housing market.

The New York Times reports that LLCs are increasingly popular, because they shield property owners from personal liability while also obscuring their identities.

But LLCs can also enable money laundering, and make it harder for renters to hold their landlords accountable.

The Times reports that thirty years ago 92% of rental properties in America were held by individual owners whose names could be easily found. By 2015, that number had fallen to 74%.

Susan Pace Hamill, a law professor at the University of Alabama. told the Times that there should be a way to keep the liability and tax benefits of LLCs without all the secrecy.

Chinese Buyers To Get Help From Mandarin-Speaking Robots
China is a major investor in U.S. real estate. But there can sometimes be a language barrier.

Now a Chinese real estate website has partnered with a technology firm to produce robots that speak Mandarin.

Production on the “Butler 1″ robots is underway, and a company spokesman says the first of them should be available in the U.S. next year.

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