Do you do business in a "Sand State" or a "HARP State"? Perhaps they're the same. Yesterday's MBA numbers showed, as a percentage of overall applications, refi's hit their lowest level since July - and 30% of those are from HARP. Jay Brinkmann with the MBA observed that HARP volume is not equal across the country, and that our old friends the Sand States (like Arizona, Florida, California, and Nevada) which have had the worst delinquencies are now seeing the greatest share of HARP-related loans. "We saw big state-level differences in refinance applications for February over January: Florida was up 49%, Arizona was up 61%, and Nevada was up 71%.  Refinances in the rest of the country were generally flat or even down.  For example, TX had no change, CO was down 3%, CT was up only 2%, and VA was up 1%.  HARP clearly is a driving force in those states that saw the most defaults and the biggest drops in home equity."

Down in California, WBC Lending is looking for experienced wholesale AE's (in the southern and eastern portions of the SF Bay Area) along with senior DE underwriters. WBC Lending has "an aggressive product offering, including a super jumbo portfolio product with start rate 1.625% and life cap of 6.25%, up to $2 million dollars with a 50% DTI, and a 40-year term." With over 65 years of combined wholesale mortgage banking experience, the executive management team at WBC Lending would prefer that candidates have a minimum of 2 years' experience. WBC has local underwriting, docs and funding all out of the San Jose based corporate offices.   If interested, please inquire today by contacting John Giagiari at, and for more information on the company visit

On Monday, the FDIC Board approved two "Notices of Proposed Rulemaking," the first of which would change the definition of leverage loans and subprime loans currently used to identify concentrations in assets with higher risk in the big banks.  Should the rule be implemented, it would affect 107 institutions (according to data from the beginning of 2012).  It can be viewed in full here. The second only impacts banks with more than $10 billion in assets, and would allow the FDIC to be a receiver for a failed SIFI and the other of which would modify the deposit insurance assessment system for these banks and other depository institutions. Read the full proposed rule here.

Whether a real estate transaction involves a loan or not, usually title insurance is involved. The American Land Title Association (ALTA) released figures that showed the title insurance industry generated $9.47 billion in premiums in 2011, down 1.5% from its production in 2010. The big hitters for 2011 were the Fidelity family of underwriters (35%), First American family (27%), Stewart family (13%), and Old Republic family (13%).  Independent companies accounted for about 12% of the business. State-wise, California was #1 in premiums at $1.3 billion, Texas #2 at $1.1 billion, and NY $720 million.

And while we're on the news of lending-related firms, Chicago's Old Republic International is going to combine its mortgage guaranty and consumer credit insurance divisions under one entity. Is it, as one person wrote to me, "Like two wounded soldiers leaning on each other for support"? Both divisions need recapitalization, or a restructure of debt and equity, and have been in "run-off mode" since 2008 and August 2011, respectively. And Old Republic has not been, apparently, putting much money into either. One can look for a name change from Old Republic Mortgage Guaranty to Republic Financial Indemnity Group.

I freely admit that I own a timeshare. I didn't buy it under duress - I bought it from the resort itself, it is deeded, I will own it for the rest of my life, and my children's lives, and was fully aware of the all the connotations associated with owning a week. But for $1,100 and a couple hundred bucks a year for maintenance and taxes, and I can trade it for other places, I figured it was worth it and I've always like the concept. But now, as if the public wasn't nervous enough about mortgage banking, timeshare fraud is increasing.

How 'bout some more exciting recent lender updates? They just don't seem to be stopping.

As Fifth Third prepares for HARP 2.0, it has provided guidance on how the program will affect lenders.  HARP loans dated on or after March 19th that aren't currently serviced by Fifth Third will be eligible to be refinanced by Fifth Third; mortgage insurance can be transferred to Radian, MGIC and Genworth.  Appraisals will no longer be necessary for Open Access Loans when LP returns a HVE value in the medium to high confidence range.  HARP 2.0 will affect Open Access/DU Refi Plus loans, and ARM products will be available for the HASP & HASP Open Access programs.  More details will be available in the coming weeks.

Fifth Third has also issued a reminder that it does not allow the refinancing of a modified or restructured mortgage; a list of circumstances that may indicate a prior modification or restructure can be found in the Mortgage Credit Guideline Manual.  LP and DU cannot be used to read or analyze the modified or restructured loan. In the wake of several other banks, Fifth Third has set down its own guidelines for "large deposits."  An amount deemed "atypical" when compared with the borrower's depository history or "abnormal deposit activity" that doesn't correspond with monthly earned income both qualify a deposit as "large."

A reminder comes from Franklin American Mortgage that conventional appraisals are necessary on all IRRRL transactions, which should be ordered in accordance with the Appraiser Independence Requirements (AIR).  As such, VA loans, apart from VA IRRRLs, do not have to comply with the AIR.

Plaza Mortgage too is preparing for HARP 2.0 and has announced their first round of HARP enhancements.  DU Refi Plus and Retained DU Refi Plus products will benefit from improved qualifying requirements for borrowers with HELOC and/or student loans, increased appraisal or PIW age, relaxed investment property and landlord experience requirements, and cash reserves per DU.  Watch this space for details on how the modified program will affect LP Relief Refi with transferred mortgage insurance and DU Refi Plus and LP Relief Refi LTV.

Mountain West Financial no longer offers FHA Streamline Refinances that provide interest-free advances equal to the escrow balance on the current mortgage.  No-cost refinancing in which the lender charges a premium interest rate to contribute to the borrower's closing costs is still available.

Stearns Lending rolled out three new conforming fixed products: the Portfolio DU Refi Plus, the Portfolio DU Refi Plus High Balance, and the PACE Refinance Program.

A new Condominium HOA certification form is now in use at Kinecta.  View the form in its entirety.

In California, Luther Burbank is attracting some attention with its very conservative, A+ paper 640+ for conventional and FHA (no VA at this time) products. (680+ for portfolio stuff.) But it seems the pricing is good, and the loan amounts for portfolio products are impressive: 3, 5, and 7 yr. ARMs up to $5M (75% to $3M) along with Portfolio Non reg Z loans / Investment transactions to $2.5M (3 and 5 yr. ARMs 70% to $2.5M). No, this isn't a paid ad, and CA brokers should contact Thomas Pompeo for more information:

Yesterday, per NAR, sales of existing homes fell 0.9% in February, but are better by almost 9% versus last year. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said underlying factors are much better compared to one year ago.  "The market is trending up unevenly, with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence they need to get into the market," he said.  "Although relatively unusual, there will be rising demand for both rental space and homeownership this year.  The great suppression in household formation during the past four years was unsustainable, and a pent-up demand could burst forth from the improving economy." Contract-wise, 51% of NAR members report that contracts settled on time in February, 18% had delays and 31% experienced contract failures.)

This week's interest rate movements have left the market more confused than the factory making Tim Tebow jerseys. (Read: MBS Rally Puts Much-Needed Green on The Screens) After a big sell-off/worsening last week, yesterday we saw practically everyone improving pricing. Mortgage banker selling totaled around $1.7 billion in 3.5% and 4.0% coupons, a much more manageable level when the Fed is averaging around $1.4 billion per day on average per Thompson Reuters. MBS prices were up/better as much as .5 on 30-year 3.5% securities containing 3.75-4.125% mortgages, and the 10-yr T-note closed at 2.29%.

For today's excitement we have Initial Jobless Claims (expected to move higher), Leading Economic Indicators (also expected higher), the FHFA House Price Index for January (also seen higher), and Treasury's announcement of next week's coupon auctions (2,5, and 7-yr notes). Throw in plenty of Fed Governors speaking at various events and we could see a little volatility. In the early going the 10-yr is at 2.27% and MBS prices are UP from Wednesday's closing levels.

Earlier this week was a relatively easy quiz. In this one, there are only nine questions but a little harder. They are straight questions with straight answers. I am in Oregon speaking at a Building Champions/Mortgage CEO Roundtable event for the day and will not have e-mail, so please don't write with answers or questions:

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.
2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?
3 Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?
4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?
5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?
6. Only three words in Standard English begin with the letters "dw" and they are all common words. Name two of them.
7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?
8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold by itself frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.
9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'