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Best of the Blogs, Real Estate: Large Banks Launch the Expanded Home Affordable Refinance Program

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Plus, private construction spending increases in April.

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This column highlights the most interesting and useful financial commentary on real estate from around the Web every Friday.

HousingWire
Link: HARP nearly doubles refinanced mortgages in first quarter

"The number of refinanced Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) mortgages nearly doubled in the first quarter as the largest banks launched the expanded Home Affordable Refinance Program.

"Servicers refinanced roughly 180,000 GSE loans in the first three months of 2012, nearly double the 93,000 completed in the fourth quarter, according to Federal Housing Finance Agency data. In March alone, servicers refinanced 80,000 borrowers under the program."

Dr. Housing Bubble
Link: 4 emerging trends in the housing market - Pending sales falling in spite of record low mortgage rates. How does the $750,000+ new home market look like? Would a 90 percent drop get you attention?

"The market seemed to be stunned that pending home sales fell in spite of mortgage rates being so low that they are essentially tracking inflation. Yet the narrow focus on financial liquidity still continues to miss the slow degradation of the American household balance sheet. I always found this fascinating even during the boom how rarely household incomes were mentioned in the context of purchasing a home. People at networking events or cocktail parties were quick to talk about their '$700,000' or '$1 million' home purchase yet felt that it was taboo to discuss actual income growth. In many ways buying a home with a giant mortgage became a socially acceptable way to flaunt your notion of wealth instead of pulling out your electronic pay stub. So this fall in pending home sales is merely a reflection of the shadow inventory leaking out into the market but also of weak household income growth. The Case Shiller Index made a new post bubble low in synchronization with the new mortgage rate low. What is going on with the housing market?"

Calculated Risk
Link: Construction Spending in April: Private spending increases, Public Spending declines

"Catching up ... This morning the Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending increased in April:

"'The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced today that construction spending during April 2012 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $820.7 billion, 0.3 percent above the revised March estimate of $818.1 billion. The April figure is 6.8 percent above the April 2011 estimate of $768.2 billion.'"

National Association of Realtors
Link: Local Market Reports: Foreclosure Rate

"Since February of 2011, the foreclosure rate has fallen in many metro areas around the country. The markets with the largest absolute declines were dominated by markets that experienced the harshest impact from the subprime meltdown and subsequent housing market recession."

Curbed
Link: New Orleans Mayo Factory Transformed into Arts Incubator

"New Orleans is well known for its historic Creole cottages, above-ground tombs, and antebellum mansions. Then there's the Blue Plate Artist Lofts. The sleek, three-story former factory looks like it would be more at home in Southern California than the Big Easy. Despite its nonconformist appearance, the rehabilitated Blue Plate is playing a key role in an effort to spark development in the Gert Town neighborhood."

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
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