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Daily Dose

Mortgage App Volumes Down Another 1.2%

Last week saw another tumble in mortgage applications despite a slight fallback in interest rates, according to weekly data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). MBA’s Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume, fell 1.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending March 14. On an unadjusted basis, the index dropped 1 percent compared to the previous week.

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Mortgage Settlement Banks Fulfill Relief Requirements

The appointed monitor for the National Mortgage Settlement revealed Tuesday that all banks involved in the settlement have satisfied their consumer relief and refinancing obligations—and nearly a year ahead of schedule. In a release, Joseph A. Smith Jr. commented, "Because of the way this landmark agreement was designed, an unprecedented amount of relief has been provided to consumers quickly and efficiently."

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Weather, Inventory Take Toll on February Home Sales

While usually slow, February home sales were especially soft this year, thanks to the combined factors of harsh weather, higher prices, and slim inventory. According to RE/MAX's latest National Housing Report, home sales dropped by 8.8 percent year-over-year last month, outdoing January's loss of 7.1 percent. Of the 52 metros surveyed for the report, 42 posted declines.

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Lenders Indicate Heavier Risk Management, Compliance Burdens

Financial services solutions firm Wolters Kluwer Financial Services (WKFS) released Tuesday its second Regulatory & Risk Management Indicator for the U.S. banking industry, a metric of major concerns worrying banks and credit unions nationwide. According to the latest results, the January 2014 indicator registered 121, a jump up from the 2013 baseline score of 100.

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Housing Starts Slip Further; Permit Numbers Mixed

According to numbers from the Census Bureau and HUD, privately owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000, down 0.2 percent from January’s revised estimate of 909,000 and 6.4 percent below the February 2013 rate of 969,000. On just the single-family side, builders started work last month at a rate of 583,000 homes per year, 0.3 percent above January’s revised figure.

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California Home Sales Fall in February; Inventory Strengthens

Higher housing costs took another bite out of sales activity in California in February, the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) reported Monday. Compiling data from more than 90 local Realtor associations and listing services statewide, C.A.R. determined sales of existing, single-family homes last month came to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 361,210, marking the fourth straight month that sales were below the 400,000 level.

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Prices Up, Sales Down in Windy City

According to an analysis by RE/MAX, bitter weather and a small inventory of homes for sale were the primary factors causing reduced sales activity in the Chicago area in February. The report commented, "Mortgage interest rates, which remain comfortably under 5 percent for 30-year fixed-rate loans, continue providing stimulus to the housing market."

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Interest in Homeownership Drives Optimism Among Millennials

According to the latest Home Index Survey released by PulteGroup, Inc., out of more than 1,000 consumers surveyed in February, a combined 74 percent feel the economy is either better off or the same as it was this time last year. Among respondents in Generation Y, more than half (54 percent) said the economy is in better shape now. What’s more 74 percent said now is a good or excellent time to buy the things they want or need—including homes.

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Tight Credit Standards Create Up to 1.22M in ‘Lost’ Loans

Tight credit conditions have pushed as many as 1.22 million loans out of the market per year over the last few years, researchers at the Urban Institute (UI) assert in a new commentary. Admitting that their calculation method “likely ... [overstates] the impact of tighter credit,” they also calculated a scaled lower bound estimate of 273,000 “missing” first-lien purchase loans—though they maintain the "true" number is likely on the higher end.

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Reports: Loan Trends Positive for Economic Growth

In two reports issued separately Monday, Wells Fargo's Economics Group explores two promising trends that both indicate a positive climate for economic growth. The first report follows FDIC loan performance, noting cyclical improvement in loan performance and a trend favorable for credit quality. The second report comments on underwriting practices, noting ongoing relaxing in standards.

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