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Workouts let thousands keep their

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Real estate roundup

Loan servicers report record workouts
The HOPE NOW coalition of mortgage loan servicers engaged in a record number of workouts with borrowers facing foreclosure in June and the second quarter of 2008, the group said today. Servicers completed more than 181,000 workouts in June and 522,000 in the second quarter -- loans that otherwise would have gone into foreclosure, the group said.

State and federal regulators have questioned the adequacy of the group's reporting methods and efforts to prevent foreclosures (see story). HOPE NOW reported that 58 percent of the workouts conducted in June involved repayment plans, which critics say may only delay a borrower's day of reckoning. The remaining 42 percent involved loan modifications such as an interest-rate freeze, HOPE NOW said.

Study: Standards loosened after Fannie, Freddie reined in
The diminished role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the height of the housing boom was a bigger factor than subprime lending in the drastic run-up in home prices, according to a study by researchers at UC Irvine. An accounting and management scandal that forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to cut back on purchases and guarantees of mortgages beginning in 2003 cleared the way for "aggressive" private-label issuers of mortgage-backed securities to enter the market, the study concluded.

The new credit environment allowed looser underwriting standards and increased tolerance for riskier, high-yield loan products, leading to a record increase in total mortgage volume and pushing up home prices with "momentum characteristic of a bubble." The study, led by Professor Kerry Vandell, director of UC Irvine's Paul Merage School of Business Center for Real Estate, also "defied conventional wisdom" by concluding that interest rates did not significantly affect home prices, according to a summary of its findings. Sources of funding for the study included Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors' Subprime Crisis Research Consortium.

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Carolyn Zweben, Licensed Associate RE Broker
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