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Zillow’s Indices Show Rental Markets on the Rise

A new survey from Zillow, Inc., reveals that rental markets around the U.S. continue to grow. Citing declining home values, the company reported that 70 percent of markets nationwide saw an increase in rents during January. Statistics from Zillow's recent study showed that median rents moved forward by 3 percent on a year-over-year basis in January, and the findings also noted a correlating 4.6 percent drop in home pricing for the same period. January's Zillow Rent Index (ZRI) tallied year-over-year gains in 69.2 percent of all metropolitan areas covered within the report.

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Declining Initial Unemployment Claims Reverse Trends

First time claims for unemployment insurance fell 14,000 in the week ended March 9, according to the Labor Department. In a Thursday report, the bureau noted that the decline represents the first drop in four weeks. Continuing claims, reported on a one-week lag, also fell, dropping 81,000 to 3,343,000, after two second straight weekly increases. The four week moving average for initial claims was flat at 355,750, unchanged from the previous week while the four week average for continuing claims declined 25,250 to 3,394,250.

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Chase Becomes First Bank to Settle Veteran Fraud Case

JPMorgan Chase has finalized a deal that puts an end to mortgage fraud allegations that created critical headlines for the bank. The company announced on Tuesday that it has reached a settlement in a lawsuit that accused Chase of refinancing fraud against military veterans and taxpayers. In total, Chase will pay the federal government $45 million to conclude the legal issue, which sought to bring the bank to justice for hiding illegal fees within home mortgage refinancing transactions for veterans.

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Standard & Poor’s: Has the Housing Market Hit Bottom?

Standard & Poor's Tuesday Webinar provided insight into a key industry question - "Is the housing market bottoming out?" The broad inquiry served as the title for S&P's web-based presentation, which included contributing analysts Beth Ann Bovino, Erkan Erturk, and Valerie White. Offering their take on the current state of U.S. real estate, the participants discussed home pricing, the return of the private-label securitization market, not-for-profit housing, corporate homebuilders, and the nation's housing agencies.

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New Lending Partnership for National Builder

National homebuilder KB Home is partnering with Nationstar Mortgage to offer financing on its homes. KB Home announced Nationstar as its preferred mortgage lender this week, noting, "The agreement with Nationstar is intended to offer KB Home customers a seamless home buying experience, from purchase and mortgage application to picking up the keys to their new home." Nationstar's broad national presence was a major catalyst behind the establishment of the partnership with the homebuilder.

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Canadians Initiate NYC Real Estate Investment Expansion

Canadian real estate investment company Timbercreek Asset Management is expanding its global focus stateside, with the launch of the company's New York City location. Timbercreek manages approximately $2 billion in assets through its private and publicly-traded real estate-focused funds, and the company's New York launch follows the opening of Timbercreek offices in Switzerland. Leading Timbercreek's push into new markets are three former employees of Citigroup's real estate unit.

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Multi-State Mortgage Fraud Results in Hefty Sentence

In Minnesota, a former house flipper was sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison for his role in a real estate investment scheme, topping the weekly fraud blotter for TheMReport.com. The hefty sentence for Robert W. Dufrense, Jr., who is accused of bilking more than $5 million out of investors across multiple states, was more elaborate than expected due to an additional charge for obstructing justice. Dufresne was originally convicted of one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering for a house-flipping scam.

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