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BUSINESS
April 4, 2013 | By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - Federal regulators are conducting an extensive investigation into an alleged mortgage insurance kickback scheme that pushed up costs for home buyers dating from the mid-1990s. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in disclosing its first action Thursday, said the investigation revolves around a scheme in which banks and other lenders required private mortgage insurers to seek backup insurance from lender-owned reinsurance companies. The backup insurance essentially was worthless and amounted to an improper payment to the lender by the mortgage insurer to acquire new customers, consumer bureau officials said.
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BUSINESS
April 13, 2014 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - Renewal of important expired federal tax benefits for homeowners took a major step forward recently, but the route to final congressional approval is beginning to look longer - and potentially bumpier - than previously expected. Here's why. The Senate Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved a package of tax code goodies that includes a two-year reauthorization of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, plus similar extensions for deductions of mortgage insurance premiums and energy-saving improvements to homes.
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BUSINESS
April 4, 2013 | By Jim Puzzanghera
WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators hit four national private mortgage insurance companies Thursday with a combined $15.4 million in fines to settle allegations of making improper kickbacks to lenders to steer consumer business to them. The fines, which the companies have agreed to as part of proposed consent orders, could be followed by penalties against lenders as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continued an investigation into so-called reinsurance kickbacks. "The mortgage insurance business can be lucrative, and our investigation indicates that lenders sought to leverage their control over the business to capture some of those revenues for themselves," said Richard Cordray, the bureau's director.
BUSINESS
March 23, 2014 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - Here's some good news for homeowners worried that Congress will fail again to renew popular tax benefits for use in 2014 - especially those allowing for mortgage debt forgiveness, write-offs for energy-saving improvements and mortgage insurance premiums. Though there has been no formal announcement, the Senate Finance Committee under its new chairman, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), expects to take up a so-called "extenders" package sometime this spring. "This is high on [Wyden's]
BUSINESS
October 3, 2010 | By Lew Sichelman
The nation's go-to housing finance program for the last few years is about to become more expensive. Or is it? Beginning Monday there will be changes in the way borrowers pay for the privilege of using low-down-payment, government-insured mortgages to buy or refinance a house. An analysis shows that, although the monthly premium will rise 64%, the overall cost will fall ? at least in the short term. That's because the Federal Housing Administration also is trimming its upfront premium, to 1% of the loan amount from 2.25%.
BUSINESS
January 15, 2012 | By Kenneth R. Harney
Though its demise drew little attention because of the partisan year-end brawl over the payroll tax cut extension in Congress, a key mortgage financing benefit disappeared at the end of December: the ability of large numbers of home buyers and owners to write off the premiums they pay for mortgage insurance. The loss of that tax deduction — plus mandatory new fees imposed by Congress on all new conventional and FHA loans — could effectively increase the costs of homeownership this year.
REAL ESTATE
May 12, 1996 | KENNETH R. HARNEY, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Thousands of American home buyers and refinancers who sign up for private mortgage insurance yearly could be touched by two forthcoming hot potato decisions from federal regulators. Both decisions concern a key housing consumer protection issue: Do loan applicants really understand what they're signing up for--and who's pocketing hundreds of dollars of their money--when they buy private mortgage insurance with their new loan?
BUSINESS
December 22, 1991 | KATHY M. KRISTOF
Anyone who has purchased a house in the past few years is likely to have received a flood of mail from insurers and agents peddling "mortgage protection." "Buying a home is one of the largest single investments a person can make. This kind of investment needs to be protected!" one mailer announces. "Will you leave your spouse with a deed or a debt?" Industry experts are rarely ambivalent about the product. Some say it's a needed protection for consumers.
BUSINESS
September 14, 1985 | KATHLEEN DAY, Times Staff Writer
Ticor said Friday that losses from mortgages and mortgage-backed securities that one of its units insured for a troubled Virginia real estate firm could force the Los Angeles company to quit the mortgage insurance business. The statement by Winston V.
REAL ESTATE
August 10, 1986 | DAVID W. MYERS
A little-noticed change in the regulations of a key government housing agency could save many homeowners thousands of dollars in mortgage insurance payments over the life of their loans. The change, made by the Federal National Mortgage Assn. in March, allows homeowners to cancel their monthly private mortgage insurance payments if they can prove that the equity in their home is at least 20% of the home's current value.
BUSINESS
February 9, 2014 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - Got problems with the company that services your home mortgage - the one that collects your payments, keeps track of your escrow account and lets you know when you're late? So your monthly numbers don't look right? You got blown off by servicing personnel when you tried to get inaccuracies in your account corrected? Well, move over. You've got lots of grumpy company. As of Jan. 31, just under half of the 187,818 complaints filed with the federal watchdog Consumer Financial Protection Bureau concerned mortgage foul-ups, and the vast majority of these involved servicing, loan modification and foreclosure activities by servicers.
BUSINESS
December 29, 2013 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - An important resource for first-time home buyers and others who find themselves in unfair competition with deep-pocket investors bearing cash just got better: The two biggest players in the mortgage market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are now giving non-investor shoppers 20-day exclusive rights to bid on and buy new listings they are selling. During the 20-day "first look" period, investors will be excluded from submitting bids. To qualify, non-investor buyers will need to commit to making the home their principal residence for at least a year.
BUSINESS
December 15, 2013 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - For one of the least productive congressional sessions in modern history, the final word about tax overhaul was entirely in character: Nothing's happening. But is that good or bad news for homeowners, buyers and small-scale real estate investors? A bit of both. When House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) recently announced that not only will he not reveal the details of his long-awaited comprehensive tax overhaul bill this year but he also will not seek passage of a so-called extenders bill for expiring tax code benefits, it was a sweet and sour mix for real estate interests.
BUSINESS
September 28, 2013 | By Jim Puzzanghera
WASHINGTON - The Federal Housing Administration dramatically expanded its role after the subprime market collapsed, but at the expense of its own finances. Now, the government agency will get a first-ever bailout of $1.7 billion. In a letter Friday to Congress, the agency's head said it needed money to stabilize its long-term finances and cover potential losses on the huge volume of low-down-payment mortgages it insured from 2007 to 2009. It's the first time the 79-year-old FHA - created during the Great Depression to keep home lending flowing - will require taxpayer funding.
BUSINESS
September 13, 2013 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - For homeowners who were looking to the federal government's reverse mortgage program to supply lots of cash for their retirement years, here's a heads-up: The pipeline just got narrower. Pressed by Congress to slash losses, the Federal Housing Administration recently outlined a series of steps designed to limit the maximum amounts that seniors can draw down on their homes and to make qualifying for a reverse mortgage tougher. Starting in January, applicants for FHA-backed reverse mortgages for the first time will have to qualify under comprehensive new "financial assessments" - covering credit history, household cash flow and debt levels - to make sure they have the "capacity and willingness" to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the loan.
BUSINESS
June 7, 2013 | By Lew Sichelman
Are you ready to bet that the great housing recession is finally over and that values are rising again? If so, some of the nation's largest institutional investors are ready to roll the dice with you. Pension funds, endowment portfolios and the like don't typically invest in residential real estate, which is the world's largest asset class. But given their long-term horizons, housing is considered a natural fit. And now there's a new investment vehicle that aligns their stash of cash with creditworthy home buyers.
BUSINESS
January 16, 1999 | Washington Post
In a move designed to help home buyers with good credit but small savings, Fannie Mae said it will reduce the amount of mortgage insurance required for borrowers who make down payments of less than 20% of a home's purchase price. Franklin D. Raines, chairman and chief executive of the Washington-based company, made the announcement at the National Assn. of Home Builders convention in Dallas.
BUSINESS
May 31, 2013 | By E. Scott Reckard and Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times
Mortgage rates have risen half a percentage point since setting record lows last fall, and many economists expect them to continue rising for the foreseeable future. The increase, a reaction to the improving economy and housing markets, could fuel already hot housing markets as potential home buyers look to seal a deal before rates rise any further. "I think rates will drift slowly higher," said economist Christopher Thornberg, head of the West L.A. consulting firm Beacon Economics.
BUSINESS
May 7, 2013 | By E. Scott Reckard and Andrew Tangel, Los Angeles Times
NEW YORK - As Bank of America Corp. pulls itself free from a swamp of mortgage liabilities, new troubles keep threatening to suck it back under. BofA agreed to settle a big insurer's claims over faulty mortgage bonds for $1.7 billion Monday. But it found itself threatened with new legal action for failing to abide by a landmark settlement aimed at saving homeowners from foreclosure. The Charlotte, N.C., bank said it would settle a lawsuit dating from the financial crisis with mortgage insurance specialist MBIA Inc. The insurer had been pressing BofA for more than $5 billion in damages.
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