In this era of tightened credit, pregnant women and those on maternity leave have been denied loans, despite a 44-year-old law that prohibits this kind of discrimination.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 12, 2012 2:18PM

Keys to a new home on mortgage papers (© SuperStock)One of the life events that often propels people to buy a new home is the arrival of a child.


As anyone who has had a child knows, it's usually necessary to take a maternity leave from work right after the birth.


But being pregnant or on maternity leave does not disqualify a woman from receiving a mortgage, the Department of Housing and Urban Development clarified recently, after reaching an agreement with two lenders accused of denying loans to women who were pregnant or on maternity leave.


Three new buildings have joined the 15 Lego architectural masterpieces on display at the National Building Museum. Most were built by one Lego architect.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 12, 2012 12:53PM

© Kevin Allen/Courtesy the National Building Museum.What can your kids build with Legos? Could they construct an architectural masterpiece?


In Washington, D.C., the National Building Museum has added three new creations to the 15 iconic Lego buildings already on display in the exhibit "Lego Architecture: Towering Ambition."


The original 15 works, including the Empire State Building and St. Louis' Gateway Arch, were created by Adam Reed Tucker, one of only 11 certified Lego artists in the world. Tucker, an architect who once designed life-size buildings for humans, has created a number of masterpieces in Legos, including the White House.

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Analysts caution that the first-quarter data don't indicate the crisis is over, noting that the number of foreclosure starts has increased in each of the past four months.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 11, 2012 6:59PM

© moodboard/CorbisForeclosure filings in the first quarter of this year were at the lowest level in more than four years, but analysts say that doesn't mean the foreclosure crisis is over.


Continuing a trend from the previous quarter, the number of foreclosure filings continued to fall, according to first-quarter 2012 data from RealtyTrac.


The number of properties that were the subject of a foreclosure action — a default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession — fell to 572,928 for the quarter. That was down 2% from the last quarter of 2011 and down 16% from the first quarter of 2011.


California artist borrows a page from history and applies modern technology to create a graphic representation of the effects of foreclosure.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 11, 2012 10:28AM

Courtesy of Kathryn ClarkWhat does foreclosure look like?


Is there a way to show what it does to the fabric of a neighborhood? Artist Kathryn Clark of San Francisco, who has also worked as an urban planner, is portraying the foreclosure crisis graphically in fabric by creating "foreclosure quilts."


"It was such an important topic, but didn’t seem like it was being covered in a visual way," she told The Atlantic Cities. "You would just see a lot of statistics about foreclosures in the news, and you wouldn’t actually see the real effect of it. I had been looking at maps of neighborhoods, seeing just how many foreclosures there were, and trying to figure out a way I could present that in my art."


The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing new rules for how mortgage servicers deal with borrowers. Will it make them more accountable?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 10, 2012 1:35PM

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing rules the agency hopes will help the country avoid another housing crisis.


While we don't see anything that will keep your home from losing 50% of its value, the bureau is proposing a radical overhaul in how loan servicers deal with customers.


Adding a little customer service to mortgage servicing is part of the plan.


"The mortgage servicing rules we are considering reflect two basic, common-sense principles – no surprises and no runarounds," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a news release. "For too long, mortgage servicers have not been held accountable to their customers, and the result has been profoundly punishing to homeowners in distress. It's time to put the 'service' back in mortgage servicing."


Foreclosed homes in minority communities are not kept up as well as those in predominantly white areas, according to a housing group's investigation.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 9, 2012 2:56PM

© Bilderbuch/age footstockUPDATE, April 10, 2012: The National Fair Housing Alliance filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against Wells Fargo, alleging discrimination in foreclosure maintenance. The company denied the charge.


Lenders are more likely to maintain foreclosed homes in predominantly white neighborhoods, while allowing those in minority neighborhoods to fall into disrepair, according to a fair-housing organization.


The National Fair Housing Alliance, a nonprofit created to fight housing discrimination, and four of its member organizations looked at the marketing and maintenance of 1,000 foreclosed properties in nine cities: Atlanta; Baltimore; Dallas; Dayton, Ohio; Miami; Oakland, Calif., Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C.


The investigation found that bank-owned properties in minority neighborhoods were 42% percent more likely to have multiple maintenance issues than properties in white neighborhoods. The findings are detailed in a report, "The Banks Are Back, Our Neighborhoods Are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties."


The expectation that home prices, rents and mortgage rates are all likely to rise this year led Fannie Mae survey respondents to say now is a good time to get into the market.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 9, 2012 1:08PM

© CorbisA convergence of factors is leading more Americans to believe that now is a good time to buy a home, according to the latest Fannie Mae Housing Survey.


The belief that rents, home prices and mortgage rates all will rise this year contributed to that determination.


The monthly survey conducted in March found that 73% of respondents believed now is a good time to buy a home, up from 70% in February.


The latest census data show that Americans are leaving the far-flung suburbs to live in and around more urban areas. Could this finally be the end of sprawl?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Apr 5, 2012 10:37AM

© fStop/Getty ImagesIs the suburb finished?


New census data tell us what we have been hearing for months: Homebuyers and renters are bypassing the exurbs and choosing instead to live in urban centers.


"There's a pall being cast on the outer edges," John McIlwain, a fellow at the Urban Land Institute, told USA Today. "The foreclosures, the vacancies, the uncompleted roads. It's uncomfortable out there. The glitz is off."



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