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ALTA News: Headlines and news from various media sources, keeping you "in the know" about issues impacting business and the real estate and mortgage markets.




More Homebuyers are in the Market, but Shopping Takes LongerOpen in a New Window

In the second quarter of 2020, 11 percent of American adults were planning on purchasing a home over the next 12 months, and of those, almost half were actively engaged in doing so. The National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB's) Eye on Housing blog noted that the 49 percent who were actively shopping was significantly higher than a year ago, when 41 percent were in the game. This suggests that the COVID-19 crisis and its accompanying record-low mortgage rates have converted some prospective buyers into active buyers.


Mortgage Applications for Suburban Homes are Surging as Buyers try to Escape the Coronavirus PandemicOpen in a New Window

The spreading coronavirus pandemic is having a considerable impact on the U.S. housing market by shaping consumer sentiment and behavior. The public health crisis has made many consumers reassess their priorities regarding what they’re looking for when buying a home. Homebuyers increasingly are looking to less densely populated areas like the suburbs. Following are three reasons why.


Banks say They are Tightening Lending Standards Even as Demand for Money FallsOpen in a New Window

Banks are tightening lending standards across the board even as they’re being urged to get money to those who have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Federal Reserve survey Monday. From commercial real estate to credit cards and autos, institutions are getting tougher on giving out money compared with the second quarter, even though demand also has decreased across most categories.


These Housing Markets Have Recovered the Most Since the Start of the PandemicOpen in a New Window found that more than half of the largest metropolitan areas have recovered from their pandemic lows. But the housing markets in less expensive, smaller cities as well as the suburbs and farther out towns where buyers can get more square footage for their money, the easier to social distance in, are more in demand than high-rise condos and apartments in the nation's largest, most expensive city centers. Following are the markets that have recovered the most since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.


5 Tips for Creating a Thriving Remote Workplace CultureOpen in a New Window

One of the trends COVID-19 has ushered in and likely will last is working from home. Sixty-one percent of respondents said working from home will remain after the pandemic, according to a new PRNEWS survey. While employees may enjoy working remotely, they still need to feel connected, supported and informed. Leaders are tasked with facilitating a thriving remote culture that allows employees to feel connected to each other and their work. Following are five tips to help you lead a remote workplace.


Remote Work Is Here to Stay, Bosses Better AdjustOpen in a New Window

It was mid-June, three months after the Covid-19 crisis had forced the top executives in a fast-growing tech startup to leave their offices and work from home. Executives had believed this “work from home thing” would last a few weeks, one of the company’s vice presidents told me, so they treated it like a brief emergency that required all hands on deck, all the time.


Black Applicants Are Far More Likely to be Denied a MortgageOpen in a New Window

Black applicants are denied a mortgage at a rate 80% higher than that of white applicants, according to an analysis of the most-recent data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. And Black applicants are more likely to be denied when they live in predominantly Black areas — troubling signs that, despite encouraging recent progress in advancing Black homeownership, the housing market still has far to go to fully heal the scars of a deeply unjust history.


Housing Affordability Best in Four Years, Purchase Rate Locks SurgeOpen in a New Window

The last report from Freddie Mac put its 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.99 percent, up 1 basis point from the all-time low. Black Knight, in its new Mortgage Monitor, says that has made home affordability the best in four years. As of mid-July, it required only 19.8 percent of the nation's median monthly income to make the mortgage payment on an average priced home using that 30-year FRM and a 20 percent down payment.


Home Sales Trending Above Last Year's PaceOpen in a New Window

The pace of home sales is now trending higher than last year's numbers, according to a report from Zillow. The report revealed that homes shifting from for-sale to pending is 16.1% higher than last year. Zillow states that this is a leading indicator of completed sales.


Mortgage Forbearance Rate Drops to a Three-month LowOpen in a New Window

The U.S. mortgage forbearance rate dropped to a three-month low of 7.7% this week as more Americans were able to pay their loans on time, Black Knight said in a report on Friday. It was the lowest share of mortgages with suspended payments since late April, when New York was the center of the COVID-19 pandemic. That share represents 4.1 million loans that remain in forbearance as of July 28, Black Knight said.


A Surge in Evictions Could Turn into Financial Crisis, Economist WarnsOpen in a New Window

The U.S. economy will face great risk if lawmakers do not step up and stave off a looming, far-reaching eviction crisis, an economist with LendingTree said. With eviction moratoriums lifting across the country, landlords could eventually default on mortgages and the coronavirus pandemic could worsen in the country if tens of millions of renters are put out of their homes in the midst of a tough economy.


Record Numbers of Homebuyers Making Sight-Unseen OffersOpen in a New Window

According to a recent Redfin survey report, almost half of American homebuyers have placed official bids on houses without first seeing the properties in-person. With housing supply remaining tight and demand intensifying by the day, the competition in the housing market is really heating up, right along with the summer temperatures.


How Do You Strengthen Workplace Culture When Everyone’s #WFH?Open in a New Window

How do you retain your company culture when you have a remote workforce? Retaining who you are and what is important to the company is more challenging when you aren’t in the same physical space on a regular basis. Yet, many companies with international teams and other remote situations have been successfully enjoying solid culture throughout their organizations for years. How do they do it? Intentionality.


The Housing Crisis is HereOpen in a New Window

This summer's housing market is split into two alternate realities, said Heather Long at The Washington Post. Realtors' cellphones have been "ringing with eager buyers" looking to flee urban areas for the suburbs while mortgage interest rates are at record lows.


Housing Policy for a Nation in CrisisOpen in a New Window

his year will be remembered for many things when it’s time to pen the history books, and that’s true on the housing front as well. With leadership changes at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Supreme Court ruling on important topics such as TCPA and the constitutionality of the CFPB, the GSEs’ ongoing move toward privatization, and a presidential election only a few short months away, it would have been quite a noteworthy year for the industry even before the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic swept through.


OIG: Fannie, Freddie aren’t Monitoring Servicer ComplianceOpen in a New Window

A new report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that mortgage servicers might be failing to provide statutorily required information to borrowers about forbearance plans. In response to the report, FHFA told the OIG that it shared its concern that servicers might not be adequately informing homeowners that forbearance is available to them.


Housing Market Poised for Quick ReboundOpen in a New Window

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns severely curtailed the ability of many consumers to buy homes during March and April, as layoffs and reduced working hours hurt household incomes. Residential construction also slowed as homebuilders grew cautious amidst the slump in demand. Yet despite these effects, the housing market is already showing signs of a quick rebound.


House Clears $1.3T Spending Bill with $210B in Emergency CashOpen in a New Window

The House approved a colossal $1.3 trillion spending package today that includes $210 billion in emergency money to help federal agencies fight the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to funding other priorities. The lower chamber cleared the six-bill bundle in a 217-197 vote. The legislation, H.R. 7617 (116), would fund the vast majority of the federal government next fiscal year, boosting budgets at the Pentagon and the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, Energy and more.


Real Estate Q&A: Why Do I Need to Buy Two Title Insurance Policies?Open in a New Window

We are closing on a new home shortly and just received our lender’s estimate of the closing costs. It is charging us for both an owner’s title insurance policy and another one for the lender. Is this normal, or should we insist that the lender pays for its title policy?


New Head-turner for Mortgage Rates: 15-year Loans at Under 2%Open in a New Window

Remember all the excitement when 30-year mortgage rates started dipping below 3% for the very first time a few weeks ago? Just as those low-cost loans are almost starting to become ho-hum, one of the nation's largest home lenders is out with a shorter-term mortgage that takes rates into a whole new universe.


Housing Market Recovery Gains MomentumOpen in a New Window

The Housing Market Recovery Index reached 103.7 nationwide for the week ending July 25, posting a 2.7 point increase over last week and bringing the index 3.7 points above the pre-COVID baseline. Regionally, the West and Northeast continue to lead the recovery with the overall index now visibly above the pre-COVID benchmark. 30 of the largest 50 markets in the country are now above the recovery benchmark, with the overall index showing greatest recovery in New York, Boston, Seattle, Las Vegas and Philadelphia.


JD Power Ranks Mortgage Servicer SatisfactionOpen in a New Window

The performance of mortgage loan servicers is lacking in the eyes of many of their customers, even this early in the pandemic driven recession. J.D. Power's 2020 U.S. Primarily Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study found customers reporting long wait times to speak with customer service representatives and little proactive communication on the part of the companies.


FinCEN Warns of COVID-19-Related Cyber FraudOpen in a New Window

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued an advisory alerting financial institutions to several types of cybercrime and cyber-enabled crime connected to the coronavirus pandemic. These include targeting and exploitation of remote platforms and processes, phishing and extortion campaigns, business email compromise scams.


Buyer Demand Drives Home Prices Up 8.5% In JulyOpen in a New Window

Home prices continue to accelerate across the country with the national average median home price hitting an all-time high in July — reaching nearly $350,000 — reflecting the strength of the housing demand amid the pandemic, according to’s July monthly Housing Trends report. July’s listing price growth of 8.5% marks the largest leap in median listing prices since November 2018 and equates to a $27,000 increase over last year.


How COVID Has Affected Office SpaceOpen in a New Window

In March, when our world changed in a way unlike anyone living as experienced before, The Great Adaptation began. And as Think Realty published months ago, uncertainty creates a need to be fulfilled. You, as real estate investors, entrepreneurs, and business owners can fill that need, and can capitalize from it — IF you adapt.


Five Ways To Leverage Property Data In Real Estate MarketingOpen in a New Window

Real estate is a local game — and highly targeted marketing is key to winning it. Whether you’re an agent, mortgage broker, insurance firm or home services provider, delivering the right message to the right audience is critical if you want to close a deal.


CFPB Receives Record Numbers of Complaints During PandemicOpen in a New Window

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received a record number of consumer complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Director Kathleen Kraninger. During a House Financial Services Committee hearing Thursday, she reported that the Bureau has fielded more than 14,000 complaints over the past few months that were specifically related to the coronavirus.


GSEs Report Boosts in Q2 IncomeOpen in a New Window

The government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) bounced back from their first-quarter performance, recording increases in their respective comprehensive and net income levels in their newly released earnings reports. Fannie Mae posted a net income of $2.5 billion for the second quarter, up from $461 million in the previous quarter but lower than the $3.4 billion from one year earlier.


Opportunity Zones During Economic UncertaintyOpen in a New Window

Are you an investor with a recent realized gain? You may want to evaluate the risks and benefits of investing the gain in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. Introduced as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, opportunity zones offer tax breaks to real estate investors who make long-term investments in low income census tracks.


Is the U.S. Mortgage Industry about to Fall Off a Cliff?Open in a New Window

Forbearance programs permitting temporary suspension of Americans’ monthly mortgage payments have been a godsend to the more than 4 million borrowers who have made use of them in the time of COVID-19. But the end of this much needed grace period is looming large.


Congress Members Call for Pause on GSE Capital FrameworkOpen in a New Window

Three members of Congress have requested the Federal Housing Finance Agency pause on its capital framework rulemaking for the GSEs during the pandemic and extend its comment period on the rule proposed this spring. They also requested in-depth analysis on how the proposed rule would impact underserved borrowers.


Pending Home Sales Continued to Rebound Across the Country in June (for Now)Open in a New Window

The index of pending home sales rose 16.6% in June as compared with May, the National Association of Realtors reported. The increase comes after pending home sales experienced the largest monthly rise on record last month, the trade group said.


Mortgage Applications Remain Steady Amid Continued Economic StressOpen in a New Window

After three weeks of increases, mortgage applications fell 0.8% last week as mortgage rates continued to sit near record lows, according to a report by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The unadjusted purchase index also fell 1% last week but was up 21% compared to last year – marking 10 straight weeks of year-over-year increases for purchase activity, according to the report.


Fed Holds Rates Steady, Says Economic Growth is ‘Well Below’ Pre-pandemic LevelOpen in a New Window

The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady in a decision announced Wednesday that came along with a tepid outlook on the coronavirus-plagued economy. In a move widely expected, the central bank kept its benchmark overnight lending rate anchored near zero, where it has been since March 15 in the early days of the pandemic.


Gauging the Pandemic’s Financial ImpactOpen in a New Window

More than half of mortgage borrowers have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and close to one in five have missed a payment during the months since the pandemic hit the United States. LendingTree surveyed more than 1,000 borrowers at the end of June to determine how the pandemic is impacting their ability to pay their mortgage loans. A total of 53% of borrowers have lost some income because of the pandemic, and millennials are the hardest hit.


Freddie Mac's Volume Increased in June, Delinquencies SkyrocketedOpen in a New Window

Freddie Mac reported this week that its total mortgage portfolio increased at an annualized rate of 14.2 percent in June compared to a 5.5 percent gain in May. The portfolio balance at the end of the period was $2.46 trillion compared to $2.407 trillion at the end of May and $2.239 trillion a year earlier. The growth rate for the year to date is 9.0 percent.


Legislation Would Provide Help to Commercial Real Estate ForeclosuresOpen in a New Window

After hearing from constituents in their congressional districts, U.S. Congressmen and members of the House Committee on Financial Services, Andy Barr, R-Ky, Van Taylor, R-Tex., and Al Lawson, D-Fla., have introduced legislationto provide economic support to the commercial real estate market, especially for businesses with Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities debt. H.R. 7809, the Helping Open Properties Endeavor (HOPE) Act works to protect millions of jobs across the nation by preventing commercial real estate, specifically to borrowers of commercial mortgages, according to the bill authors.


Home Inspections Waived Amid Intense Bidding WarsOpen in a New Window

According to a recent report submitted from real estate experts at Redfin, American homebuyers are more prone to settle when it comes to what they’re willing to accept amid high-stake summer bidding wars. With the housing industry’s supply and demand gap ever-widening, the housing shortage is soaring along with the season’s temperatures.


U.S. Homeownership Rate Soars to an Almost 12-year HighOpen in a New Window

The U.S. homeownership rate soared to an almost 12-year high in the second quarter as low interest rates allowed more Americans to qualify for mortgages. The homeownership rate jumped to 67.9%, the highest since 2008’s third quarter, from 65.3% in the prior quarter, the Census Bureau said. The report noted a change in methodology that could have impacted the numbers: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person interviews were suspended and most of the survey was conducted by telephone, the release said.


Housing Market Heats Up, Inventory Still Lags BehindOpen in a New Window

First American Financial Corporation has released its First American Real House Price Index (RHPI) for May 2020. According to the report—which measures the price changes of single-family properties throughout the nation—the gap in supply and demand that plagued the pre-pandemic home market has only grown. What is even more newsworthy: Experts say this imbalance between supply and demand will only grow, alongside increasing house prices.


Senate HEALS Act Does Not Extend Federal Eviction Moratorium—Here’s What to KnowOpen in a New Window

The Senate released its next coronavirus stimulus package, including provisions for $1,200 economic impact payments, reduced unemployment benefits, funding for schools and additional Paycheck Protection Program loans. What the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act doesn’t include: an extension of the federal eviction moratorium or adequate housing relief, according to advocates, just as eviction bans across the country expire.


Fed Policy Has Kept Mortgage Rates Low. It’s Also Driving Up Home PricesOpen in a New Window

As the Federal Open Market Committee prepares to meet this week, mortgage borrowers are facing some of the lowest interest rates in history. The housing market is heating up--driving home prices higher--after a slow spring season. And refinance activity has exploded, up 122% year-over-year in mid-July.


Home Price Increases DecelerateOpen in a New Window

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine census divisions, saw a 4.5% year-over-year rise in May. This was slightly lower than the 4.6% annual increase recorded in April. The 10-City Composite’s 3.1% annual increase was below the 3.3% level recorded in the previous month while the 20-City Composite’s 3.7% year-over-year gain was down from the 3.9% gain recorded one month earlier.


A Shift From Single-Family ZoningOpen in a New Window

In recent months, a slew of cities and states have sought to forego single-family zoning in favor of higher density housing options—hoping it may be a cure for the ongoing affordability crisis. From California to Oregon, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Virginia, legislation has been introduced and, in some cases, approved, all of it designed to allow for higher-density zoning in areas previously reserved exclusively for single-family housing.


How Do We End Mortgage Inequity?Open in a New Window

More than 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, there’s still a racial divide when it comes to housing. Black Americans are still less likely to own a home than white Americans – and when they do, their mortgages are often more expensive. That’s a dynamic that needs to change, according to a top exec at CBC Mortgage Agency, a federally chartered government agency that works to promote affordable homeownership.


Dana Wade Confirmed as Federal Housing CommissionerOpen in a New Window

By a vote of 57-40, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dana Wade as Assistant Secretary for Housing – Federal Housing Commissioner. She will step into a role previously occupied by The Hon. Brian D. Montgomery, now serving as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Mortgage Applications Decrease in MBA Weekly SurveyOpen in a New Window

Mortgage applications fell for the first time in four weeks, albeit slightly, as the 30-year fixed rate held at a record low, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported this morning in its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending July 24. The Market Composite Index decreased by 0.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased by 1 percent compared to the previous week.


Here’s How the HEROES Act Could Help Renters and HomeownersOpen in a New Window

The federal eviction moratorium extension ended on Saturday in all but New York and as the $600 unemployment bonus also expires at the end of the week, the U.S. is about to see waves of evictions. This could all be avoided if the HEROES Act is signed this week. Following is some of what the HEROES Act contains and how it could help renters and homebuyers.


Jumbo Mortgage Rates are no Longer the Cheapest Mortgages AroundOpen in a New Window

Record-low interest rates are helping homebuyers lock in years of savings. But those searching for larger homes or in expensive markets aren’t reaping the same rewards. The average rate on a 30-year jumbo mortgage was 3.77% in mid-July, more than 0.4 percentage point above the average rate on smaller, conforming loans, according to 


Affordability Expectations Show Slight ImprovementOpen in a New Window

According to the second quarter of 2020’s Housing Trends Report, only 24% of prospective buyers can afford at least half the homes available in their markets. The other 77% are able to afford fewer than half the homes. Although these results demonstrate housing affordability remains a serious challenge, buyers’ affordability expectations are slightly more favorable than a year ago. Falling mortgage rates are likely a key factor.


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