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Open commentary on everything impacting the U.S. housing economy. The opinions expressed here represent the author's alone.

Countrywide wants up-front payments to discuss some loan mods? So what?

Last week's Investor's Business Daily painted a pretty rough picture of everyone's favorite industry whipping post Countrywide Financial Corp., after getting wind of a servicing policy that requires some delinquent borrowers to pay 30 percent of arrearages before the lender will begin discussing loan modification options -- fees that the reporter, Kathleen Doler, called "a steep entrance fee." From the story, an indictment:
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Investors and Insurers, Finding Fraud

Here in the BuzzPost, we've been sounding the horn over the prevalence of mortgage fraud in recent weeks -- witness an earlier discussion of Ambac's education on the matter -- and yesterday's Wall Street Journal picked up a strong, smelly scent. (You know, the same one that's already got insurers and investors up in arms?) From the WSJ, a mention of the obvious:
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Whither thou, credit crunch?

Wear-out isn't just a concept for media and advertising planners; it also describes the public's appetite for things like the word "subprime" and "credit crunch." And after the Fed's bailout of Bear Stearns -- a move that we still think was the right thing to do here at HW -- credit concerns eased somewhat, and investors started to breathe easier. Is the worst behind us? Really?
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Happy, shiny real estate news

Want to pretend the bad news is a figment of media creation? For those who want to keep their heads firmly planted in the sand, at least one broker information source isn't hiding its agenda -- it will only cover good news about the real estate market. The site,, was launched by a company that provides market data for brokers and agents nationwide.
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Can't sell your house? Raffle it off!

Obviously, the mortgage and housing slump isn't something confined just to the United States -- the global effects of losses that started here have contributed to a global housing slowdown, as mortgage lenders have tightened their belts even outside of our borders. Australia, the UK, and Spain; all are seeing some semblance of housing problems, for varying reasons. But leave it to a Spaniard to come up with the most intruiguing idea for getting out from under a mortgage he can't afford: a raffle.
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It's like switching professors, but with real money

News from Friday's Wall Street Journal is providing more of a harsh light on common practices at many rating agencies -- in particular, that agencies often switched out analysts when bond issuers asked. Obviously, given the hot water Moody's finds itself in right now, this is the sort of thing that will tend to put the defenses up: "Wall Street is not switching our analysts," a Moody's spokesman says. "Moody's makes decisions based on the best interest of the rating."
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