DS News Webcast: Monday 4/15/2013

first_img The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago in Featured, Media, Webcasts DS News Webcast: Monday 4/15/2013 April 15, 2013 792 Views Coverage: – Is Another Housing Bubble Forming?- California Sees Year-to-Date Surge in Foreclosure StartsFor More Information, Check Out Dsnews.com About Author: DSNews  Print This Post The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Subscribe Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days agocenter_img Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Is Rise in Forbearance Volume Cause for Concern? 2 days ago Previous: Long & Foster Appoints Manager for New Jersey Shore Office Next: WFG Lender Services Acquires Valutrust Home / Featured / DS News Webcast: Monday 4/15/2013 Share Save Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago 2013-04-15 DSNews Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Related Articleslast_img read more

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DS News Webcast: Thursday 1/16/2014

first_imgHome / Featured / DS News Webcast: Thursday 1/16/2014 Is Rise in Forbearance Volume Cause for Concern? 2 days ago 2014-01-16 DSNews Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago January 16, 2014 429 Views Subscribe The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Share Save Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Related Articles About Author: DSNews The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days agocenter_img Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily  Print This Post Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago DS News Webcast: Thursday 1/16/2014 The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago in Featured, Media, Webcasts Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Previous: Economist Discusses Positive, Negative Influences on Economic Growth Next: Homeowners Still Access Referral Services in Post-Crisis Periodlast_img read more

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Analysts Predict December Improvement for Existing-Home Sales

first_img Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Tagged with: Auction.com Existing Home Sales National Association of Realtors Tory Barringer began his journalism career in early 2011, working as a writer for the University of Texas at Arlington’s student newspaper before joining the DS News team in 2012. In addition to contributing to DSNews.com, he is also the online editor for DS News’ sister publication, MReport, which focuses on mortgage banking news. A new forecast of existing-home sales for the month of December has projected activity rising but still finishing the year on a low note after a weaker than expected November.In its latest Nowcast projections, online real estate auction company Auction.com calls for pre-owned home sales to fall between seasonally adjusted annual rates of 4.79 and 5.18 million for December, with a targeted number of 4.98 million.The company’s forecast comes just one day after the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that existing-home sales in November were at an adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million, 6.1 percent down from October and well below Auction.com’s forecast of 5.25 million.Peter Muoio, chief economist for Auction.com, explained that outside influences were responsible for dragging home sales down past the lower scope of the company’s range.”This apparently anomaly required a closer look at possible outside factors that the [Nowcast] model wasn’t able to account for, such as a slowdown in purchases late in the month due to inclement weather, or the potential for November predictions to be skewed somewhat by the unexpectedly strong momentum coming out of October,” Muoio said.NAR cited a number of factors in November’s decline, including tightening inventory, diminishing investor activity, and rising home values pushing more and more properties out of homebuyers’ reach. Auction.com EVP Rick Sharga pointed to many of the same issues, also bringing up unexpectedly harsh weather conditions in the Midwest and Northeast.”In a month where consensus forecasts were all too optimistic, we are reminded that the housing market is recovering in fits and starts, and there remain significant headwinds,” Sharga said.As the housing market prepares for what 2015 might bring, Auction.com’s research department says strengthening first-time homebuyer numbers and increasing household formations will help normalize demand among non-investors.Meanwhile, continued strengthening in the labor market “suggests a firmer basis for demand heading into 2015, while lower mortgage rates and ongoing initiatives to improve mortgage accessibility could motivate more prospective buyers to enter the market,” the company said.If Auction.com’s forecast holds out, December sales will come in 2.2 percent above year-end 2013, marking the third straight month of annual improvement. Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Share Save Auction.com Existing Home Sales National Association of Realtors 2014-12-24 Tory Barringer  Print This Post Home / Daily Dose / Analysts Predict December Improvement for Existing-Home Sales The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Analysts Predict December Improvement for Existing-Home Sales Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago About Author: Tory Barringercenter_img Previous: Q3 GDP Revision Pushes Economy to Fastest Growth in a Decade Next: FHFA Approves Merger Application for Federal Home Loan Banks of Des Moines, Seattle December 24, 2014 1,086 Views Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago in Daily Dose, Featured, Market Studies, News Related Articles Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Subscribelast_img read more

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Consumers Slowly Getting Savvier About Finances

first_img in Daily Dose, Featured, Market Studies, News Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Scott Morgan is a multi-award-winning journalist and editor based out of Texas. During his 11 years as a newspaper journalist, he wrote more than 4,000 published pieces. He’s been recognized for his work since 2001, and his creative writing continues to win acclaim from readers and fellow writers alike. He is also a creative writing teacher and the author of several books, from short fiction to written works about writing. Consumers Slowly Getting Savvier About Finances The results of a new survey by Equifax has found that while most Americans have a working knowledge of their finances, a mere 15 percent say they are financially literate. A fifth of those surveyed said they know more about national politics than their own credit histories. About 6 percent are more up on fashion trends.But, Equifax learned through its survey, most consumers are taking steps to educate themselves when it comes to financial literacy. Nine in 10 responders said teaching financial literacy should be required in school systems. Seventeen percent of responders said they have already learned about financial literacy through a high school or college class.Nearly half the responders said they read news articles on financial websites over the past year, while almost a third sought guidance from family and friends. Parents were the most popular source of information; 41 percent said they asked their parents for financial guidance.Dann Adams, president of Global Consumer Solutions at Equifax said that “without a basic understanding of credit and your own behaviors, it can become challenging to do some of the basic fundamentals such as save for retirement, establish an emergency savings account, or move beyond living paycheck to paycheck.”Survey takers seem to be on the same page, at least as far as being financially responsible.”One of the survey’s results we found encouraging is that many consumers understand the importance of paying bills on time, every time,” Adams said.According to the survey, 87 percent of responders said they knew paying bills on time is one factor that affects a credit score. Another 42 percent said they knew that most types of negative information can stay on a credit report for seven years. This is up slightly from the 40 percent of surveyed consumers who knew this same information in Equifax’s 2016 report.Another bright spot is that almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they confident about their short- and long-term financial futures. Respondents age 60 and older were most confident about their financial futures; however, respondents aged 45 through 59 were least confident.Despite encouraging trends towards greater financial literacy, only a quarter of responders said they were actively saving for the proverbial rainy day. However, not saving could have more to do with practical financial status than the wish to save. The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Previous: Foreclosures, Delinquencies Drop Year-Over-Year Next: Construction Jobs Dip Slightly Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago About Author: Scott Morgan Tagged with: Education Finances Related Articles The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Share Save Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily  Print This Post Education Finances 2017-04-11 Seth Welborn Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago April 11, 2017 1,155 Views Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Home / Daily Dose / Consumers Slowly Getting Savvier About Finances Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Subscribe last_img read more

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Hensarling’s Communication Control Faces Criticism

first_img 2017-05-08 Seth Welborn The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Seth Welborn is a contributing writer for DS News. He is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing, and has studied abroad in Athens, Greece. An East Texas native, he also works part-time as a photographer. Related Articles Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Home / Daily Dose / Hensarling’s Communication Control Faces Criticism Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago May 8, 2017 946 Views About Author: Seth Welborn in Daily Dose, Featured, Government, News A letter from Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), originally sent in April to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, informed Mnuchin of the Financial Services Committee’s intention to retain control of all communication between the committee and the Treasury. The letter was released by Buzzfeed on Thursday. Additional letters by Hensarling to other government agencies were released by the Associated Press.Hensarling stated that communications between government agencies committee staff and members often include sensitive and confidential information that should not be released.“All such documents and communications constitute congressional records not ‘agency records’ for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, and remain subject to congressional control even when in the physical possession of the” agency, Hensarling wrote in the letter to Mnuchin.Under the 1967 Freedom of Information Act, Congress is exempt from requests for records and material, and as Hensarling stated, communications between the Financial Services Committee and various branches of government constitute congressional records.Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-California), criticized Hensarling’s letters.”Anytime he’s called on it, he says that Congress has the right to conduct oversight. And while Congress does have that right, it is the height of hypocrisy for him to take such extraordinary measures to shield himself from the oversight of the American public,” Waters said in a statement. “People should ask themselves: What is he trying to hide?”Jeff Emerson, a committee spokesman, called the letter a reminder of legal obligations.  He said a federal appellate court recognized in 2004 that records created by the Treasury Department at the request of Congress are not considered agency records if Congress intended to retain them, and that the court has long recognized that Congress’ constitutional oversight role may be threatened if agencies don’t maintain the confidentiality of congressional records.“This newfound liberal outrage is just performance art,” Emerson said in a statement. In response to waters, Emerson noted that she had known of the letters for over a month. Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily  Print This Post Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Previous: The Week Ahead: Eyes on the Treasury Next: Serving the Underserved Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Share Save Hensarling’s Communication Control Faces Criticism Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Subscribelast_img read more

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Mortgage-Free Living

first_img The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago  Print This Post Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago October 2, 2017 1,213 Views Related Articles Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to solve affordable housing issues, one of the biggest issues the state is now facing, but a recent report by the Orange County Register says despite those problems, 2 million Californians are living mortgage free.According to the report, 29 percent of all owner-occupied residences in the state were mortgage-free, up from 23 percent a decade ago, which is interesting considering the current state of housing affordability and slipping ownership numbers.“California’s debt-free flock has grown by 339,000 homes—20 percent—in a decade,” the report said. “Meanwhile, California homeowners with mortgages have dropped by 498,000 — 20 percent — to 4.93 million since 2006, the peak of an easy-lending era.”Compared to the nation, which has only grown by 14 percent in the last decade, the article attributes California’s increased mortgage-free living to years of historically low-interest rates causing owners to use savings to pay off a mortgage or buy in all-cash deals.“Mortgage-free living is equally common throughout Southern California counties, with the share of occupied homes having no mortgage relatively the same in all four counties at slightly more than 1-in-4 last year,” the report said.Census data show that mortgage-free homeowners in California are paying about $546 a month, which is compared to an average $2,188 for an owner with a mortgage and $1,375 for a renter. These reasons make the 15-bill package signed by Gov. Brown important to many homeowners and renters in the state.“These new laws will help cut red tape and encourage more affordable housing, including shelter for the growing number of homeless in California,” Brown said in a statement last week.The bills seek to amend zoning, low-income housing opportunities, lower costs of construction, the speed of development, and limiting regulation that prevents new developments from being undertaken. mortgage 2017-10-02 Brianna Gilpin Brianna Gilpin, Online Editor for MReport and DS News, is a graduate of Texas A&M University where she received her B.A. in Telecommunication Media Studies. Gilpin previously worked at Hearst Media, one of the nation’s leading diversified media and information services companies. To contact Gilpin, email [email protected] Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago About Author: Brianna Gilpin Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Previous: Delinquencies Forcasted to Rise in Coming Months Next: Buffett: Wells Fargo CEO Has My Faith Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days agocenter_img in Daily Dose, Featured, Market Studies, News Home / Daily Dose / Mortgage-Free Living Tagged with: mortgage Share Save Subscribe Mortgage-Free Living The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily last_img read more

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Home Affordability Challenges in Microcosm

first_img Share Save  Print This Post Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago June 4, 2018 1,584 Views Previous: Hail to the Chief: Nationstar COO Tony Ebers Next: Rent Price Trends—Industry Implications Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Home / Daily Dose / Home Affordability Challenges in Microcosm Tagged with: Affordability Home Prices San Francisco About Author: David Wharton The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago David Wharton, Managing Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 16 years’ experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at [email protected] Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days agocenter_img Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Related Articles in Daily Dose, Featured, Journal, Market Studies, News Home Affordability Challenges in Microcosm San Francisco has never been cheap when it comes to finding housing, but a recent Urban Institute report breaks down just how unaccessible the City by the Bay has become in recent years. With high demand, skyrocketing home prices, and woefully insufficient housing inventory, San Francisco also serves as an extreme but potent example of the affordability challenges facing California as a whole, as well as many other markets around the country.As reported in an Urban Institute post entitled “The Bay Area’s housing crisis, in four charts,” the San Francisco Bay area remains a popular job hub, but lack of affordable housing supply, rising construction costs, tight credit, and other factors have turned the region into a perfect storm of unaffordable housing. As seen in the Urban Institute chart below, the number of Bay area homes priced above $1 million has increased significantly during the decade between 2007 and 2017. As the Urban report puts it, “the $3 million home has become the next frontier.”Needless to say, this has left lower-income families and minorities behind as the city has continued to grow. The Urban report states, “The extreme competition for housing units has driven up prices and credit standards, making it difficult for low-income people to access homeownership. The current housing inventory does not meet the needs of essential members of the community, including teachers, firefighters, and police officers.”However, it’s not just about affordability. In the Bay area, as with many other regions in California, the bottom line comes down to there simply not being enough houses to match demand. According to Urban’s Housing Affordability for Renters Index, 24.3 percent of San Francisco area renters can afford to buy a home if they wanted to. There simply aren’t enough homes to keep up. That’s not as bad as in Los Angeles, where the Renters Index rating is only 18 percent, but it still leaves a lot of room for improvement.To see more of Urban Institute’s findings, click here. The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Affordability Home Prices San Francisco 2018-06-04 David Wharton Subscribelast_img read more

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Homes of “Steel”

first_img Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago  Print This Post Share Save in Daily Dose, Featured, Market Studies, News February 6, 2019 1,185 Views Affordability can be the biggest stumbling block for homebuyers looking to purchase their first property, especially in some of the biggest cities in the country. However, according to a recent study by LendingTree, cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City are the easiest places to buy a first-home that’s also affordable.For the study, LendingTree ranked the 50 largest metropolitan areas on the basis of how friendly they were for first-time homebuyers by analyzing six factors. They included, average down payment (amount and percent), share of buyers using FHA mortgage, average FHA down payment as a percentage of average down payment for all loans, percentage of buyers who have credit scores below 680, and the Housing Opportunity Index score for the area that measured the percentage of houses affordable to middle-income families.While the top three cities—Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City—had a consistently high rank across all the six metrics, the study found that Oklahoma City, Cleveland, and Memphis had the lowest down payments averaging $32,000. Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio ranked among the best cities for affordable homes based on the lowest down payment percentage that averaged at 14 percent—two points lower than the median across all the 50 metros that were surveyed for this study.The study also revealed that almost 40 percent of buyers in Birmingham, Detroit, and Columbus used FHA financing to secure a mortgage – the highest among the cities that were ranked. These cities also had the largest portion of buyers with credit scores below 680.However, when it came to the largest share of homes that are affordable to median income families, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland scored top marks in the study.Cincinnati was also ranked fourth in the rankings for the 10 best cities for first-time buyers, followed by Birmingham, Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, Detroit, and Kansas City.At the other end of the spectrum, the worst cities in terms of affordability for first-time buyers was led by Los Angeles, followed by Denver, San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, San Diego, Miami, Seattle, New York, and Austin. Homes of “Steel” Credit Score Down Payment LendingTree mortgage Pittsburgh 2019-02-06 Radhika Ojha Tagged with: Credit Score Down Payment LendingTree mortgage Pittsburgh Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Subscribe Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days agocenter_img Related Articles Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago About Author: Radhika Ojha Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Previous: Mr. Cooper Takes Ownership of Pacific Union Financial Next: Wells Fargo Gives Homebuyers a LIFT Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas. Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Home / Daily Dose / Homes of “Steel” The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily last_img read more

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Why GSE Advisor Represents an ‘Important Milestone’

first_img Mike Albanese is a reporter for DS News and MReport. He is a University of Alabama graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in communications. He has worked for publications—both print and online—covering numerous beats. A Connecticut native, Albanese currently resides in Lewisville. Home / Daily Dose / Why GSE Advisor Represents an ‘Important Milestone’ Share Save Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Subscribe February 3, 2020 1,377 Views Tagged with: Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago About Author: Mike Albanese Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days agocenter_img The Federal Housing Finance announced Monday that it has selected Houlihan Lokey Capital, Inc., as its financial advisor to assist in the development of a plan to conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Tim Rood, Chairman and co-founder of the Collingwood Group, told DS News that this announcement is an “important milestone” in the process to end conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “The FHFA still needs to produce a capital plan from which the advisor will work from to develop a capital restoration roadmap for the GSEs,” Rood said. He added that the capital plan is expected to be published by the FHFA within the next 30-90 days. The agreement between the FHFA and Houlihan Lokey has up to one year to produce a plan to end privatize the GSEs. The FHFA’s report states Houlihan Lokey will consider business and capital structures, market impacts, timing, and available capital raising alternatives among other items. “Hiring a financial advisor is a significant milestone toward ending the conservatorships of the Enterprises,” said FHFA Director Dr. Mark Calabria. “The next major milestone for FHFA is the re-proposal of the capital rule, which will happen in the near future.”The contract between the FHFA and the firm is $9 million for the first year. The FHFA has options to extend for an additional four-and-a-half years. The total contract is not to exceed $45 million. Rood added that the two most common concerns about the end of conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are related to the access of credit and the cost of mortgage credit. He added that GSE’s are “essentially required” by their charters to ensure mortgage credit is available in every market on every day. “Who the GSEs serve in those markets is in large part the discretion of the FHFA. Director Calabria appears to want to shrink the credit box that the GSEs work within today in an effort to reduce the credit risk that taxpayers are exposed to via the Treasuries current backing of the enterprises’ debt and securities, and the future commitment to at least backstop their MBS,” Rood said. He added that if private capital or the FHA can’t or won’t fill the credit void left by the GSE’s retraction, home values may suffer. “There is a clear bias towards the GSEs being required to hold more credit then their statutory capital requirements and more than the regulatory capital plan proposed by the Obama administration,” Rood said. “Higher capital requirements will likely require higher GFees and loan level credit adjustments to counter the higher cost of capital. Higher costs for GSE guaranteed loans not only reduces the affordability of owning a home, it could impact the size of the MBS market and the appetite of banks to portfolio agency eligible mortgages.” Related Articles in Daily Dose, Featured, Government, News Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Why GSE Advisor Represents an ‘Important Milestone’ The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago  Print This Post Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Sign up for DS News Daily Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs 2020-02-03 Mike Albanese Previous: Fannie Mae Prices $1.134B Transaction Amidst “Market Volatility” Next: Eastern U.S. Dominating Delinquency Declineslast_img read more

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Chronicling a Law Firm’s Fall and Leader’s Rise

first_img Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago David Wharton, Managing Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 16 years’ experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at [email protected] Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago  Print This Post Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago 2020-02-14 David Wharton Share Save Chronicling a Law Firm’s Fall and Leader’s Rise Subscribe Related Articles Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in the February issue of DS NewsThe bad news began with a phone call. It kicked off a chain of events that would consume the next several years of Mark Wittstadt’s life and bring about the collapse of the company he had helped build.Now, some five and a half years after that portentous phone call, the dust has settled but the debris remains. Throughout 2014 and 2015, the headlines surrounding Nathan Hardwick IV—previously one of Wittstadt’s partners, who served as CEO of LandCastle Title and Managing Partner of Morris Hardwick Schneider (MHS)—flew fast and furiously as the details of Hardwick’s misdeeds came to light. Unfortunately for Wittstadt, those headlines also included speculation about what Wittstadt’s own role in the emerging embezzlement scheme might have been.Since then, both Wittstadt and his brother and partner, Gerard “Rod” Wittstadt, have been exonerated and, in February 2019, Hardwick was handed a 15-year sentence by a federal judge in Atlanta. But the damage was done. Morris Hardwick Schneider became a casualty of the crime, with hundreds of jobs destroyed and the Wittstadts being forced to burn through tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees spent dealing with the aftermath and shortfalls incurred by the case.And yet, as a new year dawns, so too does a brighter future for Wittstadt, who has spent the intervening years building Lawyers Title Exchange and the firm, Wittstadt and Wittstadt, and LTX Law Group. Notably, Wittstadt is also, for the first time since Morris Hardwick Schneider collapsed, returning to the default space. As of early 2020, Wittstadt now serves in an Of Counsel role for the firm of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., working in mid-Atlantic default cases.“Success is built out of a series of failures,” Mark Wittstadt told DS News. “Your story is who you are. You can let other people tell your story, or you can own it and define it. I’m not here to say this never happened to me … but it’s my story.”How do you go about rebuilding a career atop a foundation of ashes scorched black by someone you once trusted? How do you start again in an industry you love when, to this day, a Google search of your name returns a slideshow of your worst days? It takes a certain amount of moxie to return to the room that holds that many bad memories—but Wittstadt is determined to step over them and make something new.The First DominoThe twisting tale of Nathan Hardwick IV and the fall of Morris Hardwick Schneider was extensively chronicled as more details emerged and litigation dragged on through the decade. It’s not surprising—the case had all the makings of a Grisham novel or a late-night TV legal thriller, with millions of dollars on the line, accusations flying between all involved parties, and even the very public involvement of PGA golfer Dustin Johnson, who loaned Hardwick $3 million in 2014. At the time, Johnson was unaware of Hardwick’s misappropriations of funds.“The default side of the firm, which I ran, was very robust,” Wittstadt said. “We had budgets. We did forecasting—six months, a year, 18 months into the future, trying to plot where the firm needed to go and what changes it needed to make in order to keep up with the times. We had business plans and continuity of business to be able to see us through both sides of the real estate market.” Wittstadt told DS News that, had things gone differently, he expects MHS would still be one of the larger real estate closing and default operations in the country.Mark Wittstadt remembers the day the phone rang without even having to think about it—July 31, 2014.At the time, Wittstadt’s career was enjoying a high point. Having become an equity partner, along with his brother, in the firm of Morris Hardwick Schneider just about a year prior, Wittstadt was running the firm’s default practice from Baltimore. Hardwick was running the title business from Atlanta, serving as CEO of LandCastle Title and Managing Partner of the firm. It was in the midst of an outside financial audit when an email came through from Hardwick, requesting that the Wittstadts convene for an “emergency call.”The bad news was bad indeed—Hardwick informed Wittstadt that some $750,000 was missing from the firm’s closing trust accounts.“All the escrow accounts were separate,” Wittstadt recalled. “Closing had their own escrow accounts and default had their own escrow accounts, and [Hardwick] indicated that it was an error that his CFO had made. He said he had directed that $750,000 be moved from the operating account back into the escrow account.”During that initial call, Wittstadt was actually on vacation with his family at the beach. As he made follow-up calls to try and figure out what was going on, he told DS News that he had an increasing feeling that “things weren’t adding up.” He flew back to the office in Atlanta and set about making arrangements to bring in a forensic fraud examiner to go over the books carefully.“I wanted a full reconciliation of the books and the accounts,” Wittstadt said. “I wanted to know what was gone, where it went, and how it got out.”The examiner and his team worked between August 2 and August 13, 2014, and they eventually came to a stark conclusion. The escrow accounts were short—to the tune of $37 million.The Makings of a MovieWittstadt said that, after the initial emergency call, Hardwick had told his partners that he would personally borrow or sell assets to help offset the shortfall. However, even before the final tally came from the forensic fraud investigators, Wittstadt said that he was growing increasingly concerned about the potential extent of the problem. But he said nothing could have prepared him for the reality of that $37 million total.Wittstadt set a meeting with the firm’s founding and retired partner Art Morris and with representatives from Fidelity National Financial. After explaining the situation, and desperate to try and offset the shortfall in the escrow accounts and prevent a large, widespread impact to affected homeowners, the group soon came to an agreement: Fidelity would acquire a 70% stake in LandCastle Title. Hardwick resigned as CEO of LandCastle and Wittstadt was named Executive Managing Partner of MHS.However, Hardwick’s attempts to borrow from outside parties in order to make up for the shortfall soon came back to haunt the firm, kicking off a barrage of litigation that would stretch over many ensuing months. Hardwick reportedly secured loans from two people: business associate James Pritchard and Johnson. In October 2014, Johnson sued Hardwick, the Wittstadts, and the law firm of MHS,alleging that the parties involved had conspired to steal the $3 million he had extended Hardwick as a loan. According to Johnson’s suit, Hardwick allegedly told Johnson that the firm would repay him $4 million in monthly installments.Hardwick also reportedly borrowed $2 million from Pritchard, with repayment allegedly to come in 24 monthly installments and eventually totaling a $2.3 million repayment. Obviously, neither payment plan commenced as planned, and the lawsuits soon followed in the fall of 2014.Johnson finally reached a $2 million settlement agreement in June 2016, part of the bankruptcy plan instigated as the firm reached the final stages of its collapse. Notably, Johnson admitted as part of the settlement agreements that neither of the Wittstadts had any involvement in the loan made to Hardwick. Pritchard ultimately secured a $2 million judgment against the firm, which was handled in the bankruptcy.“It was a waterfall,” Wittstadt said. “It just kept coming.”Salvaging What MatteredAs Mark Wittstadt and his brother navigated a maze of litigation, conflicting stories, and financial collapse, they were also working to try and ensure that the fallout didn’t reach the homeowners who had entrusted their escrow funds to LandCastle Title and MHS.We were fighting battles on five different fronts,” Wittstadt said. “And I was prepared to fight those battles, because we didn’t do anything. But I was spread too thin.”“I was trying to fix it all the way up until the day we filed for bankruptcy,” he continued. “I had worked my entire legal career to get to where it was, and filing for bankruptcy was the last thing that I wanted to do. We tried for almost a year to pull out, and every time we thought we’d get a step ahead, we’d just get knocked back. The legal bills were just astronomical. The amount of money we were spending to defend ourselves against all these false and frivolous allegations against my brother and I, and against the firm, just became too much for us to overcome.”In July 2015, they made the call and filed for bankruptcy. But while this was no small decision, it didn’t mean Wittstadt and his partners were out of the woods. Rather than turning things over to a trustee, the Wittstadts opted to stay and oversee the final steps.“Once we filed bankruptcy, the firm was done,” Wittstadt said. “We knew that. But, as lawyers, we recognized that we had undertaken the obligation to all of our clients to represent them under the code of conduct that’s required of lawyers. We had an ethical and moral obligation to make sure that that was done correctly.”Wittstadt first contacted Jeffrey R. Waxman, a Partner at Morris James LLP and one of the attorneys who helped oversee the bankruptcy proceedings, on or around May 2015.“They had a very short period of time in which to file for bankruptcy,” Waxman said. “To their credit, Mark and Rod were stand-up individuals throughout the process, despite the fact that it would have been easy for them to simply say, ‘This is more than I bargained for, I’m washing my hands and walking away.’ The two of them stuck through it for the entire process.”Wittstadt recalled, “We had a lot of money in our escrow accounts that needed to get back to who it belonged to. We had a number of real estate closings that needed to be completed. We needed to make sure deeds were recorded, mortgages were paid off, releases filed—those types of things. So, we had to maintain a staff to be able to wind that business down. We had to account for whose money it was and ensure that the default escrow accounts, the ones that I had managed, were reconciled to the penny.”Well, perhaps not to the penny. “We were off by like five cents,” said Wittstadt with a wry laugh.“Mark and his brother did far more than any other firm [in this type of situation] that I’ve seen to date,” said Rudy Casanova, President of Rainmaker Solutions and an industry colleague of Wittstadt. “There have been other firms in the past who would just wash their hands of their situation [once bankruptcy begins]. In one of those situations, my company was harmed and we received $1 million judgment—of which we received zero dollars. Mark and his brother did far more than most people would have to maintain their integrity in the industry.”Waxman recalled, “This was one of the more difficult cases that I’ve ever had. This was a confluence of a significant number of parties with a large interest. You had openly hostile creditors and counsel who were litigious from the first day of the case. You had a creditors’ committee who were fulfilling their fiduciary obligations by monitoring everything, but that also meant a large amount of scrutiny. You had the office of the United States Trustee, the watchdog of the bankruptcy process, who was justifiably skeptical at the outset of the case. But, throughout the case, Mark and Rod came to the hearings. They filed the schedules. For long periods of time, they weren’t getting payments for their salary, or if they were, they were significantly reduced.”“It took a lot of effort to make sure that my default banking clients got all their money back, but every single one of them got all their money back,” Wittstadt continued. It took Wittstadt and his remaining staff the better part of a year to finish reconciling the escrow accounts and ensuring all those who were owed money back were addressed.Wittstadt told DS News that, during this stressful and emotionally draining time period, he often turned back to lessons he learned from his father—who had served as a lawyer and then later as a judge—to help push him forward.“He instilled in us that we have an ethical obligation to our clients,” Wittstadt said. “It’s immaterial to your representation of your clients to allow your personal issues to interfere with your obligations to your clients. That’s what I believed, and I continue to believe that today.”The Aftermath (and a New Beginning)In September 2016, Wittstadt’s day-to-day obligations to the firm were finalized, and oversight of the bankruptcy was passed on to the liquidating trustee. Along with a couple of employees he had remaining, Wittstadt launched LTX Companies, as well as shifting focus to the firm he founded with his brother, Wittstadt and Wittstadt.In the years that followed, Wittstadt got back to work, representing clients doing real estate closings, title abstracting work, real estate litigation, and other related matters. After having overseen an organization of around 700 employees, Wittstadt now has just under a dozen on his payroll. It was good, honest work, but Wittstadt recalls a sense of restlessness.“In this life, you only have two choices: you fight for your spot in the sandbox, or you pick up your toys and you go home,” he said. “I’m 54 years old today, but I’m not ready to pack up my toys and go home. I want my space back. I want my spot back.”Time passed, as it does. In February 2019, Hardwick was finally sentenced, closing the door on the saga of MHS and LandCastle Title, but for the wounds left behind and a once successful business brought down by malfeasance.But, as we spoke to Wittstadt in the fall of 2019, there was a new light on the horizon. In 2018, Wittstadt began returning to the sort of industry events he’d avoided for a while, including the Five Star Conference and Expo and some MBA events. He began discussing possible paths back into the default industry where he felt his skills would best be served.In late 2019, those discussions bore fruit with the announcement that Wittstadt would be serving Of Counsel for the firm of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. Wittstadt will assist with the firm’s clients in the Mid-Atlantic states.Mike Barker, Managing Partner, Financial Services Division for Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., told DS News, “We are very pleased that Mark has joined the firm as Of Counsel. We see substantial opportunity for him to rebuild his practice in Maryland and we are pleased to embark on this journey with him. There are few people who could have gone through what he went through and still have enough in them to persevere, fight, and rebuild.”As he returns to default practice, Wittstadt said he’s encountered a mostly warm reception from both clients and other organizations, something he says he credits to the work he and his brother put into trying to make things right. He also said he’s looking forward to returning to this field with lessons instilled both by these particular experiences and from the perspective the years have provided.“You have to have a diversification of your law practice,” Wittstadt said. “You can’t put all your eggs into one basket and expect that that business is always going to be there, it’s always going to thrive, and it’s always going to generate the type of revenue that you were accustomed to before. The successful plan is watching the market and figuring out how to provide the best services utilizing as much automation as you can, providing excellent customer service, and diversifying your practice to follow trends to allow for other revenue streams. That’s the only way that a successful firm will survive.”He also suggests that a sense of vigilance is critical for leadership of firms and other organizations so that they can catch red flags sooner rather than later.“Whoever’s at the helm needs to make sure that they are looking at critical areas every day to make sure that things are in accordance with how you want it to run, not just on the surface but in the underlying mechanisms, the underlying workflows,” Wittstadt said. “You have to take deeper dives down into the way your firm and your business is running. You have to know those business lines and not take for granted just what’s on the surface. It’s just like going to the doctor. Just because you feel good doesn’t mean you don’t go get your checkups.”He added, “Everything is not always fine.”The story of Mark Wittstadt’s past decade is one that often wound through dark places, but now there is sunlight on the horizon. Moreover, the address of his Baltimore offices as he returns to the default industry suggest that maybe, just maybe, the storm has truly passed. He’ll be doing business at 902 Light St.“Sometimes bad things happen to good people,” Wittstadt said. What matters, he suggests, is what you do next. 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