Friday Five: Some Hardest-Hit Real Estate Markets Turning Around

Home sales rise, mortgage rates fall, and flood insurance reauthorization gains momentum in Washington.

Some of the country’s hardest-hit cities are turning around and the latest numbers from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® show existing-home sales were up more than 3% in April. With the outlook looking rosier than it has in a long time, will a new deal struck in the Senate ensure that the national flood insurance program gets the five-year reform it needs? Without flood insurance, home buyers can’t take advantage of record-low mortgage rates. This and more in this week’s Friday Five.

The Street: 5 U.S. Cities Making Big Turnarounds

Some of the nation’s hardest-hit housing markets are beginning to turn around as lower unemployment, a stabilizing foreclosure market, and lots of bargain hunters contribute to a rebound.

Bloomberg: Sales of Existing Homes in U.S. Rise As Market Stabilizes

Sales of existing U.S. homes rose in April, driven by broad-based gains in demand that signal the market is stabilizing. Purchases, tabulated when a contract closes, increased 3.4% to a 4.62 million annual rate, figures from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® showed. The median home price jumped by 10%, the biggest jump in six years.

The Hill: Flood Insurance Extension Quickly Approved in the Senate

The Senate on Thursday afternoon approved a two-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), an action that was made possible by an agreement Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made to take up a longer-term five-year reauthorization when the Senate returns from the Memorial Day break. The Senate approved the extension by unanimous consent, after Reid declared, “If it were to expire … real estate transactions would come to a screaming halt. Taxpayers would be on the hook for future disasters. This is something we have no choice, we have to get it done.” The bill still needs to pass the House.

Examiner: Refinance your FHA Mortgage Regardless of Your Appraised Value or Loan Amount

The Federal Housing Administration will reduce mortgage fees significantly for borrowers who qualify for the FHA’s streamlined refinance program. The lower fees go into effect June 11 and will be available to borrowers who refinance loans that were endorsed by the FHA before June 2009. In this streamlined program, the FHA asks for limited documentation from borrowers and doesn’t require an appraisal of the home. FHA estimates that there are approximately 3.4 million households with qualifying FHA mortgage loans with mortgage rates over 5%.

World Property Channel: Fixed Rate Mortgages in U.S. Hit Record Lows, Again

Average fixed mortgage rates again hit new record lows, according to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey. The 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.79% for the week ending May 17, down from last week, when it averaged 3.83%. Fifteen-year mortgage rates averaged 3.04%, down from last week, when the average was 3.05%.