Standard Federal Bancorp.'s fourth-quarter earnings report offers some interesting insights into where the mortgage business may be headed early this year.

Standard Federal, soon to be acquired by ABN Amro North America Inc., has consistently reported far more detail of its lending business than just about any other thrift.

It reported that 31% of its loans in the quarter were refinancings, significantly greater than its average for the year, 26%, which just about matched the industry average.

If Standard's business is an accurate barometer, the little wave of refinancings may be gathering momentum.

There is some additional support for this idea. About 43% of Standard's loans in the fourth quarter were at adjustable rates, against 29% in the year-earlier quarter and 28% for 1996 as a whole.

But Standard also reported that just 17% of the approved loans in its pipeline that are waiting to be closed are at adjustable rates. This means adjustables should drop closer to 17% this quarter as loans in the pipeline are closed. Such a scenario normally means strength in refinancings.

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The typical single-family home owned by a middle-management executive costs just $99,333 in Oklahoma City, according to Coldwell Banker Residential Properties Inc. - making the housing market there the most affordable in the country.

At the other end of the spectrum, a comparable house in Beverly Hills would cost $766,250, making the Los Angeles enclave the most expensive market.

The Coldwell Banker survey also places four Texas cities among the 10 most affordable in the nation. Of the 10 most expensive, seven are in California.

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Despite the continuing turmoil in much of the industry over interpretation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, one group appears fairly happy about Respa.

Title insurers are finding that the new rules give them opportunities. "We now find the idea of controlled or affiliated business title companies to be in vogue," said David Lawrence, executive vice president of Ticor Land Title Co.

Mr. Lawrence, writing in Real Estate Investment Trends, a newsletter from Henry S. Miller Commercial, Dallas, adds that recent changes in Respa "have not only provided safe harbors for the existence of these affiliations but arguably encourage their development.

But the executive warned that not every title company would benefit. "Some will not embrace the concept," he wrote, "and will ultimately be frozen out of what appears to be the emergence of a vibrant and lucrative market."

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