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March Price Gains Beat Forecasts Despite Slowdown

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, released Tuesday, recorded a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent monthly rise in prices across 20 of the country's top markets. Compared to a year ago, March prices were up 12.4 percent, a step back from the 12.9 percent annual increase recorded in February. "The year-over-year changes suggest that prices are rising more slowly," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

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Seven Major Metros Reporting New House Price Peaks

According to the latest from Black Knight Financial Services seven of the 40 largest metro areas hit new peaks in March, suggesting that perhaps a sluggish first quarter is on its way to rebounding in time for summer. Overall, the company recorded a 1.0 percent monthly increase in prices nationwide, bringing the index within 12.8 percent of its 2006 peak.

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All-Cash Sales Hover Near One-Third of Transactions

The mortgage meltdown and its somewhat predictable fallout—tighter regulations that ensure such a crisis cannot recur but choke lending and borrowing at the source—have led to an equally inevitable outcome: a glut in cash sales for homes. A recent report by Redfin shows that in 17 metro markets in the United States, a full third of sales this year have been all-cash deals. And that figure has been essentially flat since 2011.

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Existing-Home Sales Up for First Time in 2014

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), total existing-home sales rose 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million in April. "Some growth was inevitable after sub-par housing activity in the first quarter, but improved inventory is expanding choices and sales should generally trend upward from this point," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

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Mortgage Banking Profits Dive 44% in 2013

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), independent mortgage banks and mortgage subsidiaries of chartered banks earned an average $1,242 on each loan originated in 2013, down 43.5 percent from $2,199 the previous year. MBA's VP of industry analysis, Marina Walsh, called 2013 net production profits "respectable," even with the massive decline.

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Housing Stock Down for Fourth Straight Month

According to Zillow, more than half of metros in the U.S. currently have fewer homes for sale than last year at this time. In many metros, the company found that inventory is tightest at the lower end of the market, a common price point often desirable by first-time homebuyers.

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CitiMortgage CEO Hints at Plans to Expand Lending

In remarks captured by Bloomberg at the Mortgage Bankers Association's National Secondary Market Conference in New York, CitiMortgage CEO Jane Fraser said the company is seeking out ways to step up its presence in the mortgage market, focusing largely on the "very important" correspondent segment as other banks struggle against waning loan demand and a stringent credit environment.

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New York Reg to Expand Probe into Non-Bank Practices

The New York regulator who earlier this year launched a probe into the practices of non-bank mortgage servicers revealed Tuesday he plans to expand his investigations. Delivering remarks at the Mortgage Bankers Association' 2014 National Secondary Market Conference, Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky of New York's Department of Financial Services said the agency plans to dig into fee-based ancillary services at non-banks such as Ocwen and Nationstar.

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Despite Declines, Negative Equity Picture Looks Grim

The company released Tuesday its Negative Equity Report for the first quarter, revealing an estimated 9.7 million homeowners continue to owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. While the continuing downward trend in underwater rates is a welcome sign of improvement in the housing sector, the company notes that the "effective" negative equity rate remains elevated at more than one in three.

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Despite Declines, Originator Rankings Little Changed in Q1

The decline in mortgage production in the year's opening months failed to produce any names to the list of top lenders for the quarter, but it did shake up the rankings a bit. Staying firmly in the No. 1 spot for the quarter was Wells Fargo, which held on to 14.3 percent of the market with $36 billion in origination volumes, down from $50 billion in Q4 2013. On the servicing side, Wells Fargo again beat out all others, boasting a portfolio estimated at $1.81 trillion.

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