I received an e-mail from a branch manager of a mid-sized brokerage. She said, A few years ago, during our branch meetings, agents would try to one-up each other with news from investors, who had the best rates, the fastest underwriting turn times, etc etc. Now, our branch meetings are like a wake. The only news to share is which investor tightened their guidelines, shortened their timeline for a valid appraisal, the latest RESPA and NMLS nightmares.

Are we having fun yet? It's easier to say "keep your chin up than to actually do it.

Still, are there any mortgage-related jobs out there? You bet there are. The FDIC is hiring, as is HUD. HUD-FHA is trying to fill positions all over the nation including in Southern California (Single Family Housing Specialist & Management Analyst), Denver (Management Analyst), and Atlanta (someone to run their Processing and Underwriting Division). Check it out at www.usajobs.gov. And for you pure loan officers/agents out there, check out Milestone Mortgage at www.milestonemtg.com/billrvp.

Here's an interesting announcement from Flagstar: "Flagstar will not fund or purchase any loan that closes with a notary who is associated with the broker/correspondent.  A list of associations that Flagstar deems inappropriate for a notary to have with the broker/correspondent at the time of closing may include, but is not limited to: any employee of the broker/correspondent (e.g. processors, loan officers), any family member of one of the principal owners, anyone who is to receive funds other than a notary fee, based on the closing of the loan. Any closing that occurs using a notary associated to the broker/correspondent will be required to reclose with a non-associated notary before funding or purchase can occur."

Flagstar goes on to tell clients that after February 15, "Flagstar Bank will not approve or close more than 5 loans to any one borrower, or an aggregate loan amount total of $1,000,000, and they also followed Fannie & Freddie's refusal to accept HUD approval for condominium projects.

NAMB members received a letter regarding NMLS, stating that "NMLS is proud to announce that we have been approved a 'channeller' of federal background checks with FBI and have introduced criminal background check processing functionality in NMLS. This functionality is an important fulfillment of one of the mandates of the SAFE Act." All new mortgage loan originator applications submitted through NMLS require the individual to request a federal criminal background check and provide fingerprints to NMLS to process this background check. And existing mortgage loan originators are able to request and pay for a federal criminal background check and provide fingerprints to NMLS to process this background check.

Direct Endorsement (DE) lenders should note that the FHA will begin terminating DE lenders in geographic areas where the lender has a "high rate of early defaults and claims." HUD will review the default and claim rates of DE lenders quarterly and may terminate underwriting authority for DE lenders whose compare ratio exceeds both the national rate and the HUD field office rate. HUD field office compare ratios for DE lenders must meet compare ratio thresholds. And if that happens, DE lenders terminated by HUD will be unable to underwrite and obtain insurance for FHA loans within the field offices for which termination is issued, and once terminated, mortgagees may not request reinstatement prior to six months after termination.

In a sign of the times, Reunion Mortgage has added the 1003 to the list of documents required for a broker's initial loan submission, which also include an acceptable broker GFE, Reunion's Fee Sheet, and the eCommunication Disclosure Consent form, after which Reunion receives these documents the initial disclosures will be emailed to the borrower.

Remember how the agencies came out with new loan limits, but investors didn't follow right away? Apparently originators are seeing the same thing happen with the FHA changing their flipping waiver guidelines. To the best of my limited knowledge, no lender is purchasing loans after FHA's relaxing of the guides, although Chase has no overlays to FHA guidelines. And lenders are being asked by Realtors (how did they end up with a capital "R"?) if they can do them.

For the servicers out there, Freddie Mac gave them a Home Affordable Modification program (HAMP) update, including information on important imminent default requirements, Freddie Mac's new Imminent Default Indicator, and recent Treasury announcements. After March 1, any imminent default evaluation must use their "Imminent Default Indicator", which is a new HAMP servicing tool. Freddie also revised their requirements for determining imminent default to require that "borrowers who are current or less than 60 days delinquent be evaluated for imminent default before being considered for a HAMP Trial Period Plan, and providing revised imminent default evaluation and process requirements." Servicers are advised to read Freddie's actual bulletin at http://www.freddiemac.com/sell/guide/.

If you're in California, do you need lesson in the S.A.F.E. Act? The CMBA, in partnership with NMLS-Approved CampusMBA, is providing two-day classes in Northern and Southern California next week. E-mail Stacey@CMBA.com for more information, or visit http://www.cmba.com/new/.

The MBAA index of apps showed they dropped last week for the first time in a month. Total applications were down 11%, with refi's down 15% and purchases down about 3%. MND published a story about the diminished pool of qualified borrowers and the effect it may have on the Fed's decision to exit the agency MBS market in March. READ MORE

The market has a fair number of reasons to go up or down from here - or maybe just stay put. With some Chinese banks ordered to raise their reserve ratios, Japan's outlook cut  to negative by S&P, the UK's Q4 GDP coming in less than expected, and Obama's proposal to put a 3yr freeze on discretionary spending, rates should go down. But we have the uncertainty of the Fed announcement today, this week's huge Treasury auction, Consumer Confidence coming in higher than expected, and the stock market "hanging tough", which could all push rates higher. We also had the Case-Schiller index of home prices (which sample 20 US cities) show an increase for the 6th straight month in November. It was only down about 5% from the previous November, the smallest year-over-year decline in two years. READ MORE

Speaking of the 2-year auction, it came in at 0.88% with a 3.13 bid to cover, and a 43% indirect bid, 10/8% direct. The noble 2-yr Treasury note, by the way, was the best performer last year in terms of price. Today let's all chip in and buy some of the $42 billion in 5-year notes prior to the conclusion of the FOMC's 2 day meeting!

A farmer stopped by the local mechanic shop to have his truck fixed. They couldn't do it while he waited, so he said he didn't live far and would just walk home.

On the way he stopped at the hardware store and bought a bucket and a gallon of paint. He then stopped by the feed store and picked up a couple of chickens and a goose. However, struggling outside the store he now had a problem - how to carry his entire purchases home.

While he was scratching his head he was approached by a little old lady who told him she was lost. She asked, "Can you tell me how to get to 1603 Mockingbird Lane?"

The farmer said, "Well, as a matter of fact, my farm is very close to that house. I would walk you there, but I can't carry all of this."

The old lady suggested, "Why don't you put the can of paint in the bucket. Carry the bucket in one hand, put a chicken under each arm and carry the goose in your other hand?"

"Why, thank you very much," he said, and proceeded to walk the old girl home.

On the way he says, "Let's take a short cut and go down this alley. We'll be there in no time." The little old lady looked him over cautiously, and then said, "I am a lonely widow without a husband to defend me. How do I know that when we get in the alley you won't hold me up against the wall, pull up my skirt, and have your way with me?"

The farmer said, "Holy smokes lady! I'm carrying a bucket, a gallon of paint, two chickens and a goose. How in the world could I possibly hold you up against the wall and do that?"

The old lady replied, "Set the goose down, cover him with the bucket, put the paint on top of the bucket, and I'll hold the chickens."