Yesterday the commentary had some statistics on Florida lagging in price appreciation, which many attribute to the "judicial versus non-judicial" foreclosure issue. But I also received this note: "In my opinion the reason that Florida foreclosures continues to rise is that HAMP, and the lenders, continue to refuse to modify second homes. They will modify rentals and primaries but not second homes. About 55% of the houses in FL that I know that are in foreclosure are second homes. Every homeowner has told me they tried multiple times to refi or modify and are denied. Even in HARP it is very difficult to do second homes. It took me a year, literally to get a Freddie approval on a second home condo in FL. In my latest, the borrower squeaks; $450k in income, 800 FICO and $1.2M in cash. No one would do the loan until 2 weeks ago."

Taking a quick look at the jobs market, Carrington, which has 19 different mortgage-real estate centric companies, recently announced the opening of two new East Coast Operations Centers to support its 2013 growth plans, and Carrington is now hiring for the expansion of its wholesale platform.  Specifically, the lender is looking to fill the following "newly created" key positions: Divisional Sales Manager - Central US, Regional Sales Manager - Inside (Eastern Division), Regional Sales Manager - Outside (Eastern Division), 20 Inside Sales Executives between the East and West Divisions, and 20 Outside Sales Executives between the East and West Division. "AE candidates need to be able to bring a minimum of $5 million monthly volume with them for consideration.  For the Regional and Divisional roles we would also be interested in bringing over entire teams. Confidential resumes should be sent to John Cervantes, Recruiting Supervisor, at john.cervantes@Carringtonmh .com.

And in California, Mortgage Grader is looking for licensed loan officers that may work anywhere in CA. Designed especially to support LO's, Orange County based Mortgage Grader has a second to none system called "'The Race Track' in which we allowed the MBA to study and teach to others as a matter of course. Loan processors and our sales manager monitor email traffic 24/7 in support of Realtor and builder business. Ideal candidates should have a California DRE license or an NMLS license. Mortgage Grader is the home of the patented consumer facing pricing and settlement cost engine." Please contact Jeff Lazerson at jlazerson@mortgagegrader .com for a confidential interview.

As noted above, companies continue to expand. Others change, and there has been some big news in recent days about transition. Ally Bank (GMAC) announced that it will sell its correspondent and wholesale mortgage operation to Walter Investment. (Critics ask, "What does a buyer buy when they buy a wholesale or correspondent channel?"). Its counterparties were told, "GMAC Bank (GMACB) Correspondent Funding Approved Correspondent Clients, Walter Investment Management Corp. and its subsidiary Green Tree Servicing LLC ("Green Tree") are pleased to announce the acquisition of the Ally Bank Business Lending Division, including substantially all of its associates. As a client of Ally Bank, your contract is in the process of being assigned and as such, Green Tree will begin accepting your new application submissions, registrations and locks for conforming and jumbo residential mortgage loan requests on or about March 1, 2013. Loan requests locked with Ally Bank by February 28 will continue to stay with Ally Bank through the disposition of the related loan request. As the systems and people remain largely unchanged, your business process experience with Green Tree should be similar to your prior experience with Ally Bank. With the addition of the Business Lending team to Green Tree, we believe we will have an industry-leading platform combining business and consumer lending and capital markets knowledge to provide a unique set of strengths to the marketplace."

The bulletin went on, "To begin registering loans, please access the website for Green Tree Correspondent at part of this transaction, Ally Bank will be exiting the wholesale broker and correspondent activities; however, will continue to purchase a modest level of certain products for its own portfolio. Ally Bank will continue to purchase a mix of jumbo mortgages and conventional conforming residential mortgages from select correspondents. Ally Bank will honor all commitments taken through Feb. 28, 2013. On March 1, 2013, conforming wholesale broker and correspondent business will be transitioned to Walter.  Walter will begin production on or about March 1. Due to the sale, all loans committed by Ally Bank/GMAC Bank must be locked on or before February 28, 2013. All loans must be purchased by Ally Bank/GMAC Bank on or before May 15, 2013. Rate lock extensions will be granted, according to policy, provided the extension does not exceed May 15, 2013."

(Admitting my ignorance, I'd never even heard of Florida's Walter, or given it much thought, until somewhat recently, but "cash talks and --- walks" and it has been gobbling up companies: last month the residential mortgage servicing platform of MetLife Bank, Security One Lending, late 2012 it was Reverse Mortgage Solutions, while it picked up GTCS Holdings LLC in 2011 and acquired Marix Servicing LLC in 2010.)

While we're on Ally, Joseph A. Smith Jr., the monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement, has filed a report with the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia that certifies that Residential Capital LLC, Ally Financial Inc. and GMAC Mortgage LLC have satisfied their consumer relief obligations and partially certifies completion of Ally's mandatory solicitation requirements under the settlement. Ally was required to provide $200 million of relief to consumers in the form of loan modifications, short sales, principal forgiveness and other forms of relief as part of the NMS. Ally has met and exceeded this obligation and the Monitor has certified its consumer relief credit under this part of the Settlement. Smith got the word out that he'd confirmed that Ally has provided $257,411,785 in credited relief to borrowers across the nation. For those playing along at home, Smith is also set to release his third progress report, which will include data on the consumer relief activity Ally, Bank of America, Citi, Chase and Wells Fargo, the five banks that are a part of the NMS, performed between March 1-Dec. 31, 2012, based on their reports to the states and the Monitor.

I must be aging. Any time a buyout involves the names of 4 companies, my head starts to spin. Just days after announcing that it is selling part of its mortgage-servicing business, Ocwen Financial (OCN) agreed to buy the mortgage-lending unit of New York investment bank Gleacher (GLCH). Gleacher said Friday that it has reached an agreement to sell its ClearPoint unit to Homeward Residential, an Ocwen subsidiary. The sale price was not disclosed. Gleacher said it expects the deal to close in the first quarter. On Tuesday, the Atlanta-based Ocwen announced that it had agreed to sell non-core parts of its Homeward and Residential Capital units to Altisource Portfolio Solutions (ASPS). Ocwen bought Homeward last year for $750 million. Gleacher also said on Friday that it is ending its search for a buyer or a merger partner. Gleacher bought Massachusetts's ClearPoint about two years ago, and in 2012 earned $53 in net revenue from ClearPoint, an 11% increase from 2011. Gleacher says it expects to record a $5 million loss on the sale. Gleacher lost $11.5 million in the fourth quarter, it said Friday.

Even though Basel III is not making the headlines right now, that does not mean it has gone away. In fact, quite the opposite is happening as community banks, in particular, are coming to see themselves as potential victims. And I did a quick write up for STRATMOR's website at On Wednesday, February 13, 2013, the Mortgage Bankers Association hosted a meeting with other financial industry trade associations to discuss next advocacy steps on Basel III. From comments made by representatives of the Federal Reserve System recently, it appears that the Department of the Treasury, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Regulators) are trying to finalize the rule this spring. MBA is also hearing that the Regulators are reluctant to change the adverse treatment of mortgage servicing rights in the proposed rule. The group decided during the meeting to put together a joint letter requesting that the Regulators hold a series of roundtable discussions and that the Regulators go through another notice and comment regime. Here is the latest:

A couple quick investor and training updates:

Fifth Third Mortgage Company, a subsidiary of Fifth Third Bank, continues to outpace the industry in permanent loan modifications in the government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). This is the third consecutive year Fifth Third Mortgage Company has exceeded the national average. Of Fifth Third's portfolio eligible for HAMP consideration, approximately 97.3 percent of trial plans have been converted to permanent modifications. According to U.S. Treasury data released through November 2012, that percentage is higher than the national average of 87 percent.

Impac Mortgage (publicly traded under the symbol "IMH") updated its Correspondent Lending guidelines and now permits Non Owner Occupied properties, 2nd homes and Condos for FHA Streamlines, has no LTV restrictions for Open Access in addition to DU Refi Plus, purchases FHA 1x Close (construction to perm loans, and 203Ks (both Streamlines and Full K) regardless of the stage of the draw process. Impac announced it has no prior servicer restrictions on any product and purchases loans in all states except for NY, MO and VT. (For more info, please contact Larry Maitlin at lmaitlin@impacmail .com.)

And Guaranteed Home Mortgage announced a training program for originators. "It's tough to strategically use your time to motivate and coach your sales team to develop & nurture new leads and grow their referral sources - and then do it all again tomorrow. And the next day.  Running out of ideas? "Join us for Unleash More Sales Tools" for your team to keep the grass greener on your side of the fence, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2PM EST, 11AM PST. To sign up, go to:

Rates are pretty quiet this morning, and are basically unchanged from Friday's closing levels. In general, data through mid‐February are consistent with ongoing modest‐to‐moderate real GDP expansion in the first quarter in the range of 1.5 to 2.0 percent annualized. In particular, total retail sales for January increased by just 0.1 percent, in line with expectations. It looks like tax increases and ongoing uncertainty about the debt ceiling and the spending sequester did take a toll on consumers. Also there was some giveback from the rebound in sales in November and December post‐Hurricane Sandy.

Over the course of the past few weeks, it has become more and more likely that the sweeping set of automatic federal spending cuts known inside the D.C. Beltway as "Budget Sequestration" will take place as scheduled beginning on March 1. In general, the greater Washington, D.C. area and southern states will be the hardest hit, while states in the Midwest and along the West Coast will likely be impacted to a lesser extent. While the impact of budget sequestration could be severe, there is some reason to believe that at least some of the cuts may be partially reversed in the months ahead.

But we still have some scheduled economic news to chew on this week. Today we'll have yet another house price index (this time from the NAHB), tomorrow a gauge of the mortgage industry (MBA applications) and more on housing (Housing Starts and Building Permits) along with the Producer Price Index and the FOMC minutes from a previous meeting. Thursday is Jobless Claims and the Consumer Price Index. (Inflation is expected to be non-existent across the board.) We also have Existing Home Sales on Thursday, along with the Philly Fed numbers and Leading Economic Indicators. Thursday will be quite a day! There is zip for Friday. I am heading to Kansas this morning, but in the early going the 10-yr continues to sit at a yield of 2.00% and agency MBS prices are nearly unchanged.

Here's a fun piece on sales, reminding us that a quick, memorable marketing blurb really works: