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Refinances Decline, HARP Refis Still Higher Than Last Year in Q2

As mortgage rates climb, refinances are on the decline. However, refinances through the government's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) remain elevated compared to last year's volumes, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) Refinance Report for the second quarter of 2013. HARP refinances totaled about 280,000 for the quarter, down slightly from about 290,000 in the first quarter of this year, FHFA reported.

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Unemployment Rate Dips to 7.3% in August

The nation's economy added 169,000 jobs in August as the unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent, the lowest level since December 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Economists had forecast payrolls would grow by 180,000 and the unemployment rate would remain at July's 7.4 percent. Payroll growth for July, originally reported at 162,000 was revised down 58,000 to 104,000. June payroll growth was also revised downward from 188,000 to 172,000.

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Study Finds 8.3M Homeowners on Verge of Positive Equity

Home prices have rebounded so rapidly that industry data show 8.3 million borrowers who've been underwater are on track to have enough equity to sell their home within the next 15 months--without resorting to a short sale. Metro markets that boast the highest percentage of homes with resurfacing equity include Omaha; Colorado Springs; Tulsa; Little Rock; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

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New Holding Company to Operate Three Field Service Firms

Three prominent mortgage field service companies will fall under the ownership of one new holding company. The company, formed by Concentric Equity Partners (CEP) and TDR Capital (TDR), will own Mortgage Contracting Services, LLC (MCS), Asset Management Specialists, Inc. (AMS) and Vacant Property Specialists, LLC (VPS). The deal is expected to close October 1, 2013.

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Unexpected Strength in Revised Q2 GDP

Shrugging off cutbacks in government spending, the nation’s economy grew in the second quarter at a faster pace than originally reported, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday. Second quarter growth was calculated at a seasonally adjusted annual 2.5 percent rate, a sharp increase from the 1.7 percent initially reported for gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the nation's economy, a month ago. The stronger growth suggests a recovery on track, though the growth rate is shy of the 3 percent trend rate, a threshold generally considered necessary to expand payrolls.

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Rising Rates Prompt Cash Buyers to Act

While higher mortgage rates have been blamed for the slowdown in pending home sales, they may be contributing to an increase in cash purchases, RealtyTrac suggested in a recent report. In July, about 40 percent of residential property sales were all-cash transactions. The share presents an increase from 35 percent in June and 31 percent compared to July 2012. Short sales also accounted for a bigger share of sales in July, increasing to 14 percent, up from 13 percent in the prior month and 9 percent from a year ago.

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Home Prices in Texas, Colorado Hit New Highs in June

As national home prices recover, Texas and Colorado are already busy setting new highs, data from Lender Processing Services, Inc. (LPS) revealed. In June, national home prices rose 8.4 percent year-over-year to $229,000, according to LPS' Home Price Index (HPI). When compared to the 2005 peak of $270,000, prices are still down 15.2 percent. However, Colorado and Texas moved ahead of the national trend and hit new highs of $256,000 and $182,000, respectively.

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Commentary: REO Isn’t Dead

Is it possible that we have turned the corner on the real estate crisis? Some economic indicators seem to be pointing in that direction. Inasmuch as there are tangible measurements, which have evolved into positive forecast discussions, we are not out of the woods just yet. The foreclosure process remains in the spotlight. Shortly after the 2010 robo-signing issue materialized and was reported on every news channel imaginable, REO sales throughout the country began a downward spiral. Although the robo-signing issue seems to have been addressed, there are many states that still have a cumbersome foreclosure process.

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