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Zillow Launches New Neighborhood Platform

Zillow is making it easier for home shoppers to gain information about the homes they are interested in purchasing with the launch of its Neighborhood Advice tool. The popular website will allow potential home buyers to learn more about the neighborhood they are targeting via social media outlet, Facebook.

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Illinois Home Sales Climbed in December

Illinois received an unexpected gift during December - rising home sales. Crediting the unseasonably mild weather, low mortgage interest rates, and attractive market pricing, the state recorded its sixth consecutive month of increasing numbers of homes sold. According to the recent report released by the Illinois Association of Realtors, the total number of homes sales during December was up 14 percent year-over-year. Overall, data from Illinois showed 8,828 homes sold for the month, off of 7,746 sold during December 2010.

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First Niagara Moves Forward with HSBC Acquisition

Continuing its sell off, First Niagara Bank has announced its intention to liquidate another 27 branches. The move is part of the company's transition following its acquisition of HSBC Bank's regional retail business in New York and Connecticut.

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FGMC Adds to Company’s Management Team

First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation has appointed a new assistant vice president, with the announcement that Lyle Lasky will join the company at its national underwriting and credit compliance manager. FGMC will capitalize on Lasky's 17 years of experience in the industry to enhance its quality and compliance initiatives.

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Housing Finance Reform Mired in Primary Politics

Presidential hopefuls remain quiet on subjects related to housing finance reform ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô except when it comes to politics. With former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trumping former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary Saturday, the latter went on the attack Monday by reportedly criticizing his opponent for a $1.6-million contract he signed with Freddie Mac to advise the GSE at one time. These rows touch offer the only debate for candidates over housing, signaling only peripheral discussion of a still-lagging sector.

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Candidates Face Contests in States With Steep Home Values: Report

Ahead of the primary in South Carolina Saturday, Republican presidential hopefuls will compete for the chance for a face off with President Barack Obama ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô a contest remarkably lacking in housing proposals for one that will take place in 15 battleground states with slipshod home values. The Progressive Policy Institute issued a policy brief Friday that said home values have fallen by 16 percent since October 2008, and that ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô despite a correspondingly steep drop in household wealth ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô few voters should expect candidates from either party to address housing finance reform in the election.

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Existing-Home Sales Climb 5% in December: NAR

Existing-home sales climbed by 5 percent in December as more consumers felt the confidence needed to move forward with home purchases. The National Association of Realtors reported the figures Friday, showing that total existing-home sales ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô those sales in the process of closing ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô moved forward to 4.61 million in December, up from 4.39 million in November. The trade group said that existing-home sales arrived at 4.26 million, reflecting a 1.7 percent rise from 4.19 million last year. All-cash sales reflected about 31 percent of purchases in December, up from 28 percent in November.

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Economy, Housing Market a Mixed Bag in 2012: Forecast

Freddie

The economy and housing market enter the New Year with mixed results, and will likely remain that way for at least the first part of 2012, Freddie Mac forecasted in a report Thursday. Citing numerous indices in his outlook, Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist with Freddie Mac, predicted that economic growth will likely hit 2.1 percent in the first quarter, up from the doldrums during the financial crisis. He said that U.S. unemployment will likely remain around 8.5 percent following a reversal for seasonal job growth.

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More Originators Fear Effects of Legislation: Survey

A survey released Wednesday found that more mortgage originators fear the effects of legislation for their industry than from any other challenge. Releasing the Second Annual Survey of Originator Opinions, mortgage industry recruiting firm Hammerhouse LLC polled about 400 active loan originators across the country on issues that ranged from regulation to technology. Asked which challenge felt the greatest for loan originators in 2012, 51 percent said oversight and legislation could crimp the industry.

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Housing Starts Fall 4.1% as Single-Family Starts Rise

Housing starts declined by 4.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in December, even while figures for single-family homes climbed year-over-year, offering signs that it may unseat multifamily construction after several months. Single-family housing starts went up 4.4 percent at a seasonally adjusted rate of 470,000, with the December rate for building construction with five units or more hovering around 147,000. Building permits crept forward to an annual rate of 679,000, a 7.8-percent increase year-over-year and 0.1-percent annual increase month-over-month.

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