March, 2012
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Best Places to Live


And the winners are ...

These terrific small towns stand out in the qualities American families care about most — great job opportunities, top-notch schools, safe streets, economic strength, nice weather and more.

Louisville, CO
Milton, MA
Solon, OH
Leesburg, VA
Papillion, NE
Hanover, NH
Liberty, MO
Middleton, WI
Mukilteo, WA
Chanhassen, MN

If you'd also like to know the top-earner towns or the 25 best places for affordable homes, visit CNN Money magazine online:

Source: CNNMoney

Appraisal Institute Announces Support for New Solar Valuation Form

The Appraisal Institute announced its support for a new tool that will assist appraisers and others seeking to establish the value of a property's solar-powered features. The spreadsheet was developed by Solar Power Electric and Sandia National Laboratories.

Finding a way to value residential and commercial properties with photovoltaic (PV) installations is a growing challenge facing the nation's real estate industry. As more homes and businesses turn to solar power, the need grows for ways to develop reliable and credible opinions of value of the installations and the power they generate.

PV Value works within a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to determine the value of a PV system. This is done using an income capitalization approach whereby the energy value is calculated over the lifetime of the PV module warranty.

 Source: the Appraisal Institute

Federal Government and State Attorneys General Reach $25 Billion Agreement With Five Largest Mortgage Servicers to Address Mortgage Loan Servicing and Foreclosure Abuses

$25 billion agreement provides homeowner relief & new protections, stops abuses

On February 9, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers announced that the federal government and 49 state attorneys general had reached a landmark $25 billion agreement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers: Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup, Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. (formerly GMAC).

The agreement provides substantial financial relief to homeowners and establishes significant new homeowner protections for the future. It holds mortgage servicers accountable for abusive practices and requires them to commit more than $20 billion toward financial relief for consumers. As a result, struggling homeowners throughout the country will benefit from reduced principals and refinancing of their loans. The agreement also requires substantial changes in how servicers do business, which will ensure the abuses of the past are not repeated.

For details and updates, go to or

$1 Billion to be Paid by the Bank of America to the United States

Half deferred to fund a loan modification program

The agreement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicing banks announced on January 9 also resolves the United States' civil claims that Bank of America, through its Countrywide Financial Subsidiaries, defrauded the Federal Housing Administration by recklessly and fraudulently underwriting loans to unqualified borrowers.

As part of the global settlement, Bank of America will pay $1 billion to resolve the wrongdoing uncovered during the investigation. The settlement will entail an immediate payment of $500 million to provide a recovery for the harm done to the FHA by Countrywide's conduct. Payment of the second $500 million will be deferred to fund a loan modification program for Countrywide borrowers across the nation with underwater mortgages. Under the terms of the program, Bank of America will solicit all potentially eligible borrowers and provide a loan modification to anyone with an eligible mortgage who accepts the offer. If, after the expiration of three years, the bank has not met its obligation to apply the full $500 million to provide such relief, any remainder will be paid directly to the United States.

Since 2009, Bank of America's lending practices have been under investigation to determine whether the bank, through Countrywide, which the bank acquired in 2008, knowingly made loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to unqualified homebuyers. The investigation also encompassed allegations that the bank and Countrywide defrauded the FHA insurance fund by originating mortgage loans that were based on inflated appraisals. It was determined that the bank's conduct provides a basis for affirmative civil enforcement under, among other legal remedies, the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-33, which has been resolved by the largest-ever False Claims Act settlement relating to mortgage fraud.

For details and updates, go to or

FHA Changes Loan Monitoring Rules

The Federal Housing Administration will change the way it monitors loan performance for originators participating in its Lenders Insurance (LI) program, National Mortgage News reported Jan. 27. The changes stem from a new rule designed to clarify and codify FHA's indemnification practices.

Approved LI lenders currently originate 80 percent of all government-insured single-family loans.

Under the final rule, FHA will monitor LI lender performance on a quarterly basis rather than annually, and evaluate default and claim rates in the states in which they operate. Previously, FHA monitored lender performance at the field office or national levels. Lenders with a compare ratio (comparison of a lender's default rates with other lenders in a geographic region) above 150 percent could lose their LI approval. Monitoring at the state level could push many lender compare ratios over 150 percent, National Mortgage News reported.

According to the final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: "A Lender Insurance mortgagee must demonstrate a two-year serious delinquency and claim rate at or below 150 percent of the aggregate rate for the states in which the lender does business," National Mortgage News reported.

If lender compare ratios exceed 200 percent, they can lose their approval as an FHA direct endorsement; LI and direct-endorsement lenders can underwrite and close a loan knowing HUD will insure it. If they lose their approval, loan files would have to be sent to the FHA for approval, which could significantly delay closings.

The final rule is pending publication in the Federal Register and will take effect 30 days from the date of publication.

 Source: the Appraisal Institute