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Existing-Home Sales Fall to Lowest Level in 18 Months

Existing-home sales slowed last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million—their lowest level in a year and a half—as ongoing inventory constraint lifted prices, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Friday. The drop represents a 5.1 percent decline compared to both December and January last year. On just the single-family side, sales were down to a rate of 4.05 million.

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Competition to Decline as Year Progresses

Home buying competition rose over the month of January but was down from last January, according to national real estate brokerage Redfin, which took the year-over-year decline as a sign that low inventory and rising prices are thwarting demand in the housing market. About 58 percent of home offers by Redfin agents encountered a competing offer in January compared to nearly 53 percent in December.

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Leading Indicators Show Signs of Economic Stability

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) for January increased 0.3 percent to 99.5, the group reported Thursday. Also released Thursday were the Conference Board Coincident Economic Index and the Lagging Economic Index, which both ticked up slightly. Together, the three indexes represent observed changes in average weekly hours, building permits, stock prices, consumer expectations for business conditions, and more.

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Monthly Home Payments Up 21% in Q4

RealtyTrac released Thursday a new housing affordability analysis, noting an average 21 percent increase in monthly house payments from a year ago. The report showed that the average house payment of a home purchased in the fourth quarter of 2013 rose to $865. That figure is based on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with an interest rate of 4.46 percent and a 20 percent down payment.

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Boost in Inventory Slows January Home Value Growth

A report released Thursday by Zillow shows national home values rose just 0.2 percent in January from December. Inventory rose in 22 of the nation’s 35 largest metros, explaining some of the slowdown in home value gains. Year-over-year, home values rose 6.3 percent in January, down from previous gains of 7.1 percent as recently as August 2013. Home values are expected to rise another 3.4 percent to $175,301 in the next 12 months.

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Allstate Appraisal to Host Vendor Management Compliance Webinars

The new year has brought with it an entirely new set of guidelines from regulators on third-party vendor management. For those lenders still scrambling to get their oversight right before disciplinary actions kick in, Allstate Appraisal announced upcoming webinars to delve into the topic of appraisal management companies (AMC).

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Mortgage Rates Up for Second Week

Freddie Mac released Thursday its Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending February 20, showing the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) coming up 5 basis points to a rate of 4.33 percent (0.7 point). This time last year, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.56 percent. Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist for Freddie Mac, said the change reflects market forecasts of what the Federal Reserve’s next move might be.

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Report: Borrowing Up Among Younger Consumers

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed Tuesday that aggregate consumer debt rose in 2013's final quarter, citing an increase of $241 billion dollars. The figure represents the largest quarter-to-quarter increase since 2007. The report commented, "All groups, even those with subprime credit scores, increased their mortgage balances in 2006. Now, the modest mortgage balance increases we see are mainly coming from high credit score borrowers."

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Winter Storms Take Another Bite Out of Home Sales

While home sales were down nearly 27 percent over the month, they were down 7.1 percent from January last year, according to the RE/MAX report, which includes data from 52 metros across the nation. “We usually expect to see fewer home sales in the winter months, but January experienced particularly severe storms in large parts of the country, which disrupted appraisals, inspections and closings,” said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX.

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