Baltimore Real Estate Investing

Baltimore Real Estate Investing
Baltimore Inner Harbor

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Quicken Loans wins first round in court battle versus DOJ, HUD

Quicken Loans secured the first victory in its battle against the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development when a federal judge ruled that Quicken's lawsuit against the government will be heard before the government's case against Quicken is heard in a separate court.

In mid-April, Quicken sued the DOJ and HUD in Federal Court in Michigan, saying that it was left with no alternative but to take legal action after the DOJ demanded Quicken Loans make "blatantly false" admissions about its lending practices, as well as pay an massive penalty or face legal action.

Then, several days later, the government countersued Quicken in Federal Court in Washington D.C., saying that the lender "knowingly submitted, or caused the submission of, claims for hundreds of improperly underwritten loans" insured by the Federal Housing Administration from September 2007 through December 2011.

According to a report from MLive, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton in Washington handed down a ruling Friday, granting a motion from Quicken, which will allow Quicken's suit against the DOJ and HUD to be heard first.

The MLive report states that Walton will not hear the DOJ's suit against Quicken until U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit decides whether to move forward with Quicken's case against the DOJ.

From the MLive report:

Jay Farner, Quicken Loans President and CMO, told MLive on Friday that it had been "a good day in court for us."

The MLive report states that the two sides are arguing over where both cases will be heard, with Quicken pushing for the cases to heard in its native Detroit and the DOJ pushing for the cases to be heard in Washington.

According to a separate report from The Detroit News, Walton told the parties that he is "leaning" towards moving both cases to Michigan.

"Aren't all the documents and witnesses there, and the loans granted from a location in that district?" Walton said, according to the Detroit News report. "If that's true, I'd be inclined to transfer."

According to the DOJ, Quicken was a direct endorsement lender with the FHA, which gave Quicken the authority to originate, underwrite and certify mortgages for FHA insurance.

In its suit, the DOJ alleges that Quicken did not adhere to the FHA's underwriting standards.

The government's complaint alleges that Quicken instituted and encouraged an underwriting process that led to employees disregarding FHA rules and falsely certifying compliance with underwriting requirements in order to reap the profits from FHA-insured mortgages.

"The complaint further alleges that Quicken failed to implement an adequate quality control program to identify deficient loans, and that Quicken failed to report to HUD the loans it did identify," the DOJ said in its suit. "In particular, according to the government's complaint, despite its obligation to report to HUD all materially deficient loans, during the period from September 2007 to December 2011, Quicken concealed its deficient underwriting practices and failed to report a single underwriting deficiency to the agency."

When Quicken filed its suit against the DOJ, the lender's CEO, Bill Emerson, said that the company was left with no other choice.

"After three years of struggling to understand the DOJ's position and methodology that would warrant the country's largest and highest quality FHA lender to make untrue admissions and pay an inexplicable penalty or face public legal action, it is time to ask the court to intervene," Emerson said at the time. 

"No threat, including high-profile senseless lawsuits from powerful federal officials, will deter our company and its leadership from doing the right thing," Emerson continued. "We will stand in defense of our impeccable reputation established by thousands of hard-working ethical team members over our 30-year history."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Aspen Grove Solutions promotes Ron Briggs to senior vice president

Aspen Grove Solutions, a provider of property related technology solutions for REO, short sale, asset management, inspections, property preservation, vendor management and compliance, annouced the promotion of Ron Briggs to the postion of senior vice president of business development.

In this role, Briggs will lead the business development team and is tasked with supporting clients and ensuring that Aspen Grove delivers timely and cost-effective solutions to customers, the company said in a release.

Briggs joined Aspen Grove earlier this year, bringing 25 years of experience from the real estate industry, specifically the mortgage servicing and default space.

"Ron has been a great asset since he joined, his rapid promotion within the company is a reflection on his unquestionable ability and shared values," said Ed Buckley, President of Aspen Grove Solutions.

"We are ready to continue with the success of Aspen Grove Solutions and further deepen relationships with our clients by understanding, predicting and reacting to their needs better than anyone else."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Real estate investor gets 7 years in $15M mortgage fraud scheme

A real estate investor was sentenced to 84 months in prison for conspiring to defraud financial institutions and launder stolen funds as part of a $15 million mortgage fraud scam that used phony documents and straw buyers to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos.

Timothy Ricks, 47, of New Jersey pleaded guilty before Judge Jerome Simandle to a superseding indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Judge Simandle imposed the sentence in Camden federal court.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Ricks was among 11 defendants charged in July 2012 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ricks and others located oceanfront condominiums overbuilt by financially distressed developers and negotiated a buyout price with the sellers. They then caused the sales prices for the properties--located in Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, New Jersey, other locations in New Jersey and in Naples, Florida--to be much higher than the buyout price to ensure large proceeds. Other defendants helped conceal the true sales prices of certain properties through inflated sales contracts and sale and finder's fee agreements.

Ricks and others recruited straw buyers to purchase certain properties at the inflated rates. The straw buyers had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for mortgage loans. The conspirators created false documents, such as fake W-2 forms, pay stubs, bank statements and investment statements, to make the straw buyers appear more creditworthy than they actually were in order to induce the lenders to make the loans.

Ricks and others also caused fraudulent mortgage loan applications in the name of the straw buyers, including the supporting documents, to be submitted to mortgage brokers that the brokers knew were false. Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings, Ricks and others received a portion of the proceeds after conspirators had funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Simandle sentenced Ricks to serve five years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a hearing scheduled for July 9, 2015.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to Sell My House Fast in Baltimore – Tips to Make Selling Your House Easier

When it comes to selling your house fast in Baltimore, you know how stressful and time consuming the process can be. However, there are a number of things you can do that will help you sell your house as quickly as possible. To make your life easier, we’ve assembled some of the best tips to get your home off the market.

1.    Add a little curb appeal
You know the old saying – “first impressions are everything.” The same thing can be said about your home. When potential buyers first lay eyes on your property, make sure they see a house they can one day turn into their home. Simply making your property shit a bit can go a long way: add a few flowers to your landscape, lay down some sod, fix your broken mailbox – all small changes that can add up to a lot.

2.    Give your exterior a makeover
Going along with the first impression theme, giving your exterior a simple and quick makeover can pay huge dividends when selling your home. By simply adding a fresh coat of paint to your garage doors or power washing your siding, you can give your home’s exterior new life without spending money.

3.    Put the right price tag on it
One common mistake most people make when selling their home is pricing it too high and gradually lowering it the longer it’s on the market. However, this is typically not the way to go, as potential home-buyers may just look right past your home if it’s too pricey. Instead, price it 15 – 20 percent lower than it’s market value. This will send hoards of potential buyers and bidders your way, sub sequentially driving up the value of your home.

4.    Less is more
While you want to create an inviting atmosphere for when potential buyers stop in to see your home, having personal stuff in your house can have the opposite effect. When you have personal items in your home, it’s harder for people to imagine themselves living there. So get rid of all the keepsakes, family photos, and memorabilia, and stage your home in a way that maximizes space and highlights its best features.

5.    Sell to a real estate investor
If you really want to make your life as easy as possible or simply need to sell your house fast for cash, selling to a real estate investor is probably your best option. When you go that route, you won’t have to worry about making repairs, adding curb appeal, finding the right agent, or keeping your house in perfect condition for showings. With real estate investors, you simply get a cash offer for your home as is, and can have money in your hands in about a week!

If you have the time and money to make a few changes to your home, these tips can go a long way in helping you sell as quickly as possible. However, if you need to sell your house fast now, consider turning to a real estate investor and finally take the stress out of selling your property.

RealtyTrac: Top 10 buyer and seller markets

The housing market is all over the place this year. While in some markets houses are selling for more than 100% of the asking price, other houses are being sold for less than 80% of the asking price. It's a mixed market that depends heavily on the local environment. As a result, RealtyTrac decided to identify the nation's hottest seller's markets and the best buyer's markets. 

"Nationwide in April, single-family homes and condos sold for almost exactly 100% of their estimated full market value on average -- indicating a good balance between supply from sellers and demand from buyers," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

"At the local level, however, most markets tipped in favor of either sellers or buyers -- although there were some Goldilocks markets exhibiting a 'just right' balance between buyers and sellers," he continued.

Top 10 seller markets:

On the seller's side, out of 315 counties nationwide with a population of at least 100,000 and at least 100 sales in April, there were 85 (27%) where homes on average sold for at least 10% of their estimated full market value.

Click to enlarge


Source: RealtyTrac

Top 10 buyer markets:

Out of 315 counties nationwide with a population of at least 100,000 and at least 100 sales in April, there were 186 (59%) where homes on average sold for less than 100% of their estimated full market value.

 Click to enlarge


Source: RealtyTrac

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mortgage application activity ticks down in MBA survey

Mortgage applications dropped 1.6% from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 22, 2015.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 1.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 2% compared with the previous week.

The Refinance Index decreased 4% from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 1% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index was essentially unchanged compared with the previous week and was 14% higher than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 51% of total applications from 52% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity remained unchanged at 6.4% of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to 4.07% from 4.04%, with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) increased to 4.06% from 4.04%, with points increasing to 0.29 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 3.83% from 3.80%, with points increasing to 0.16 from 0.06 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.29% from 3.26%, with points decreasing to 0.24 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.04% from 2.99%, with points increasing to 0.48 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Black Knight: Home prices see largest monthly gain in two years

The month of March saw the largest monthly gain in home prices in nearly two years, according to a new report from Black Knight Financial Services (BKFS), a Fidelity National Financial (FNF) company.

Black Knight's latest Home Price Index, released Tuesday, shows that home prices were up 1.2% in the month of March and up 4.8% on a year-over-year basis. Those totals represent the largest monthly gain in national home prices since June 2013.

Black Knight's latest Home Price Index, which is derived from the company's property and loan-level databases to produce a repeat sales analysis of home prices as of their transaction dates every month for each of more than 18,000 U.S. ZIP codes, sits at $245,000, which is just 8.4% off of the June 2006 peak of $268,000.

The Black Knight report also showed that year-to-date home price appreciation rose at a 33% greater rate than the same period in 2014.

According to Black Knight's report, the top 10 states where home prices increased were:

District of Columbia: 1.9%

Another sign of March's strong performance, Black Knight said, was the fact that even the 10 worst performing states and metro areas all saw flat to positive movement. Here are the bottom 10 states, each showing a slight increase in home prices:

Additionally, the top 10 metro areas where home prices increased were:

According to Black Knight's report, of the nation's 40 largest metros, nine hit new peaks again in March, including: Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Honolulu, HI; Houston, TX; Nashville, TN; San Antonio, TX; and San Jose, CA.

Colorado led the 20 largest states with 10% year-over-growth, followed by Texas and New York (7.7% and 7.4%, respectively).

Monday, May 25, 2015

JMT to build bigger Hunt Valley HQ

Baltimore County engineering firm Johnson, Mirmiran Thompson said Tuesday it expects to start construction of a new, larger headquarters in Hunt Valley later this year.

The firm, which has about 1,200 employees, has outgrown its existing headquarters at Loveton Circle, where it has been located for 25 years, JMT president Jack Moeller said in a statement. The new building at 40 Wight Avenue would be five stories and have about 130,000 square feet of offices, enough to allow the firm's 600 Baltimore County employees, currently scattered in three different locations, to work in one place.

JMT has expanded significantly in recent years, with four acquisitions in 2014 alone, bringing its workforce up from 950 in March last year. Founded in 1971, the employee-owned company has offices in 10 states and Washington, DC.

JMT is working with developer Greenfield Partners and architecture firm Design Collective on plans for the property, with a move anticipated in early 2017. A spokeswoman for JMT declined to provide an estimate of project cost, saying it has not been set yet.

The announcement follows McCormick Co.'s decision to remain in the county. U.S. Lacrosse also is building a new headquarters nearby, while Kelly Associates Insurance Group is renovating a building for a larger headquarters in Sparks.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jeb Bush: Current housing and debt situation unsustainable

As presidential candidates (including potential ones) step into the national limelight, and the race for the White House in 2016 edges closer, the topic of housing policy and reform is finally getting air time in the conversation.

This is, by all accounts, a welcome change for an industry - housing and mortgage finance - that accounts for such a large portion of the national economy and impacts every American, and yet tends to get the short end of the stick in election years.

With eight declared Republican and Democrat candidates, and another possible baker's dozen in the wings, two so far have been at the forefront with a discussion on housing.

Earlier this week Jeb Bush, who has not officially announced that he's running for the Republican nomination for the office that his father and brother held, said at a small fundraiser that he believes the 30-year-mortgage is likely in decline, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need reform, and that the current housing and debt system is unsustainable.

The following is from a rough transcript recorded by a local Fox News affiliate and obtained by HousingWire, and it shows Bush does think housing policy is a priority.

"I think the system we have needs to be reformed for sure," Bush told those at the informal gathering in New Hampshire. "(I) worry as much about the people who have lost their homes as lost value of their homes. Home values dropped by 30-40% and they keep making their mortgage payments. It's an issue of equity. 

"I think Freddie and Fannie need to be reformed," he said. "We're creating the same bubble that got us in this mess beforehand."

Bush made a point about the changing demographics in housing, and how it affects housing finance. 

"I don't think we'll ever get back to the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage," Bush said. "If you add up the contingent debt that us has required through housing, student loan program...and then you take the contingent of social security, ... it's in to the $50-60 trillion dollars. If we allow that to exist...don't recast these liabilities, that's not sustainable. Our children and grandchildren will end up paying all the largess that we allow them to have."

Less than a fortnight ago, Mike Huckabee, who has formally declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination, talked about his take on housing policy:

Washington is more dysfunctional than ever and has become so beholden to the donor class who fills the campaign coffers that it ignores the fact that one-in-four American families are paying more than half their income for housing. Home ownership is at the lowest level in decades and young people with heavy student debt aren't likely to afford their first home for a while.

Our federal policies for affordable housing aren't designed to protect families, but to protect bureaucrats. A record number of people are enrolled in government operated help programs like food stamps, not because they want to be in poverty, but because they are part of the bottom earning 90% of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for 40 years. The war on poverty hasn't ended poverty; it's prolonged it. I don't judge the success of government by how many people are on assistance, but by how many people have good jobs and don't need government assistance.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Barclays mortgage bond trader fired for allegedly lying to clients

Barclays Capital (BCS) fired one of its mortgage bond traders after he allegedly lied to clients about residential mortgage-backed securities trades.


According to a report from Bloomberg (first reported by Asset-Backed Alert), Barclays terminated Yoon Seok Lee on Feb. 11 for "allegations involving certain inaccurate communications to customers during the negotiation of residential mortgage-backed securities trades."

Click through to the Bloomberg report from more on Lee's firing.