Freddie Mac sued by county in Ohio
Last year, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (MERS) became the subject of lawsuits from counties across the nation as District Attorneys allege the company never owned the loans they were facilitating foreclosures for, and in most cases, judges agree, and their authority to facilitate has been denied in several counties. Dallas County alleges the mortgage-tracking system violates Texas laws and shorted the county anywhere from $58 million to over $100 million in uncollected filing fees due to the MERS system, dating back to 1997.
Others sued MERS as well; in February, in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Chief Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Christian County Clerk, denying relief to the County for the same relief sought by Dallas County and others.
Rampant mortgage fraud, continued robosigning
Studies have shown that MERS destroyed the chain of title in America, and other studies reveal that illegal robosigning is still in play, and that foreclosure fraud has occurred in the majority of loans.
As the courts have not yet rewarded cities, counties, or states pursuing action against MERS, other tactics are being taken by these entities, for example, Louisiana is using RICO laws to sue MERS.
Summit County, Ohio taking a different approach
Summit County, Ohio filed a lawsuit1 Tuesday against Freddie Mac, alleging a failure to pay fees on transfer taxes on over 3,500 real estate transactions over six years. Court documents show that the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation is accused of committing fraud by claiming it was a government entity, thereby exempt from transfer taxes. The County has not released a final assessment of the amount they believe is due, but they will also be seeking interest and penalties.
This approach is far different than going after MERS (which coincidentally was established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over 15 years ago), rather going directly after the still-functioning Freddie Mac.
“The reality is Freddie Mac is a federally chartered, private corporation and they should have been paying these fees and taxes,” Assistant Prosecutor Joe Fantozzi told the Akron Beacon Journal.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae began paying transfer taxes in 2009, so the lawsuit is only seeking transfer taxes due from 2002 through 2008, which in Summit County are $4 per $1,000 on all real estate transactions. Additionally, the county also charges a 50-cent lot fee and recording fees, which are $28 for the first two pages and $8 for each additional page.
Fannie Mae not named, FHFA already fighting back
Although Geauga County in Ohio sued MERS, Chase Bank, and CoreLogic, the Akron Beacon Journal reports that Summit County is believed to be the first county in the state to file legal action against Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae was not named in the suit due to the low volume of mortgages in the county it handled during the time period.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the conservator of Fannie and Freddie, is fighting back on these same battle lines, suing in Illinois to validate the two mortgage giants’ tax-exempt status, the Chicago Tribune reported. This move is likely an effort to circumvent more lawsuits like the one currently being filed in Summit County.
Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home
When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?
Looking at the bigger picture
(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).
That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).
They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.
“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”
Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?
With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.
The average home age is higher than ever
(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.
With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.
Prices of new homes on the rise
Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.
Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?
The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.
Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes
(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.
Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.
So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.
1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues
It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.
Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.
2. Two major media brands emerge
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