Friday Five: At 11th Hour, Congress Extends Flood Insurance Program

Flood insurance extension expected to be signed by Obama; housing prices reach their highest figure in 20 months; and mortgage rates hit record lows — again.

Congress has extended the National Flood Insurance Program through the end of July, allowing lawmakers more time to negotiate a longer-term extension. Other positive signs in the housing sector: record-low mortgage rates and brisk sales of distressed homes, which are moving this burdensome inventory off the market. This and more in this week’s Friday Five news roundup.

San Francisco Chronicle: Fed Flood Insurance Program Gets 60-day Extension

On Wednesday, the day before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was set to expire, the House of Representatives approved a bill extending the federal program for 60 days through the end of July. President Obama is expected the sign the bill into law, allowing both House and Senate lawmakers to approve a longer-term extension.

HouseLogic: Pending-Home Sales Decline in April but Up Strongly from Year Ago

The number of homes under contract to sell declined in April, but the overall volume of home sales was higher than the pace set a year ago, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index declined 5.5% in March but is 14.4% above April 2011.

New York Times: Hints of a Bottom in Home Prices

The median price of existing homes sold in the United States in April was $178,000, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® reported this week. While the monthly figures are volatile, that was the highest figure in 20 months, and the average of the 12 most recent figures has also begun to rise. Only in two major Texas markets, however, are median prices now at or above where they were in 2006.

CNN Money: Foreclosures Made Up 26% of U.S. Home Sales in First Quarter

Homes in some stage of foreclosure accounted for more than one in four home sales during the first three months of the year, according to a RealtyTrac report released Thursday. In addition, there were nearly 110,000 short sales in the quarter, up 25% from a year earlier and comprising 12% of all homes sold during the first quarter, according to RealtyTrac.

USA Today: 30-year Mortgage Rate Falls to Record 3.75%

Average U.S. rates on 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages dropped to record lows again this week, with the 15-year loan dipping below 3% for the first time ever and the 30-year loan hitting its lowest rate sing long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. Low rates have helped brighten the outlook for home sales this year.