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Bipartisan Bill Targets Foreign Investors for U.S. Housing

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is making moves to help the U.S. housing market capitalize on foreign investors. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) proposed legislation recently that would facilitate investments from abroad by easing the acquisition of visas for those participating. The bipartisan plan would give foreigners buying homes on American soil a residential visa for three-years with an investment of $500,000 or more, provided they live in the property for a minimum of 180 days per year.

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FBR Releases Mixed Third-Quarter Bank Earnings

FBR Capital Markets & Co. has released its third-quarter report on bank earnings, and the results, which showed loan growth among some asset divisions, also indicated that the underlying fundamentals may not be in sync with the full impact such mitigating factors had on valuations during the quarter. Showing sensitivity to debt issues abroad and the current yield curve, findings for 3Q were mixed but pointed in a potentially positive direction for the final quarter of the year. Lending was up and net interest down.

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Obama Refi Proposal Takes Shape in HARP Changes

Federal regulators announced their intentions Monday to expand the Home Affordable Refinance Program available via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Among other modifications, the FHFA said it plans to eliminate a number of risk-based fees for short-term mortgage borrowers, take off the 125-percent loan-to-value ratio for loans guaranteed by the GSEs, and void requirements for new property appraisals in lieu of automated estimates. Market watchers around the industry offered reactions that ranged from skepticism to optimism.

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B of A Case, Two Attorneys Make Friday Fraud Blotter

Fraud

A Bank of America case, two attorneys, and state legislation that made mortgage fraud felonious helped complete the MReport mortgage fraud blotter Friday. MReport sourced two stories from multiple news outlets, which found Bank of America gaining the upper hand in a fraud-related suit and two attorneys alternately disbarred and charged for their roles in scamming lenders and homeowners. Also: A new state law makes mortgage fraud a felony in Michigan.

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Obama Picks Galante for FHA Chief Amid Partisanship

President Barack Obama fielded HUD official Carol Galante as a new nominee to head up the Federal Housing Administration, even as the future for other federal nominees remains unclear. The White House announced the decision in a statement in which the president offered new names for other posts. It remains uncertain whether any of the current partisan wrangling over other nominees will impact the confirmation process for Galante. Also in line for his confirmation: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director-nominee Richard Cordray.

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Reports: Expect Obama’s Housing Finance Plan Soon

A declaration by President Barack Obama to end the war in Iraq helped drown other news Friday, including apparent moves by the White House to float a housing finance stimulus plan in the next few weeks. Some of the initiatives currently under wraps include an expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program and a selloff in mortgage-backed bonds by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to invite private-sector investment back into the housing finance system. The Federal Housing Finance Agency plays a major role for either proposal.

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Senate Passes Bill to Raise Conforming Loan Limits

A bill squeaked by the Senate Thursday that would reverse lower limits for conforming loans backed by the federal government and reinstate the $729,750 threshold until 2013. Lawmakers adopted the amendment to a federal spending measure by a count of 60 to 38, giving backers of the bill the supermajority needed to avoid wrangling over the issue. Multiple news outlets reported that Congress had allowed the higher limits for conforming loans to ease in October despite a massive lobbying effort by companies and trade groups.

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Lawmaker Questions the 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Lawmakers called into doubt the role of the historic 30-year fixed-rate mortgage Thursday, with Senate committee witnesses alternately arguing for and against it. At issue: whether the benchmark loan, available since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, stabilizes the housing finance system or weakens it. Witnesses alternately upheld and criticized the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, with the former characterizing it a buttress of wealth for homeowners and the latter calling for more consumer choice and clarifying its role in the crisis.

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