IN THE BUSINESS . . . The Department of Housing and Urban Development has launched its "direct endorsement" program, designed to speed up the processing of FHA loan applications. These applications have risen dramatically as interest rates have fallen, causing backlogs of five weeks or more in some areas. The new program will allow approved lenders to handle loans from application to closing without prior HUD review. Mortgage bankers and other private lenders had been champing at the bit to get going on this--HUD agreed to it in principal some time ago--but HUD had to write the regulations and Congress had to review them . . . What does a "typical" house cost these days? Well, according to a survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Service, a "typical" three-bedroom, two-bath house of about 1,600 square feet sells for about $86,000 in the District; $140,000 in Woodbury, Conn. (outside New York City); $80,000 in Minneapolis; $57,500 in Pittsburgh, and $125,000 in San Jose, Calif. Don't like those figures? Well, the National Relocation Service, in data cited to Congress by the Federal National Mortgage Association, gives these (without specifying exactly what the house is like): Washington, $121,500; Connecticut suburbs of New York, $148,500; Minneapolis, $139,500; Pittsburgh, $77,500, and San Jose, $121,000 . . . CEI Construction, Inc. was the 10th largest general building contractor in the country last year, according to Engineering News Record, a trade publication . . . W. C. Pinkard & Co. Inc. has been named exclusive leasing and management agent for the 132,000-square-foot Westgate Plaza shopping center in Manassas . . . The Maryland-D.C. chapter of the Real Estate Securities and Syndication Institute is sponsor-ing a panel discussion at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Sheraton Inn in Lanham. The topic: "Acquisitions, Development, Financing and Marketing of Income-Producing Property. For information, call 460-1300.

PERSONNEL FILE . . . D. Terrence MacHamer has been named president of Capital Homes Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Corporation for Housing Partnerships, which builds single-family homes in the Washington-Baltimore corridor. Before joining Capital Homes, he was president of Jacyn Development Group, Inc. . . . Joseph Hutnyan, for the past 17 years Washington bureau chief of American Banker, has been appointed vice president and director of communications for the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks. The association has also named Rebecca Laird, currently with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, vice president and chief regulatory counsel.

ON THE MOVE . . . The sales and exhibit center has opened at Porto Vecchio, a complex of 170 condominiums to be built on the river at the southern tip of Old Town Alexandria. The development will consist of two eight-story buildings connected by a "grand lobby." Sizes range from 1,000 square feet to 2,900 square feet and prices from $125,000 to $500,000 . . . Penril, a fast-growing electronics business, has leased 31,000 square feet in the Avenel Business Park in Gaithersburg for a light assembly facility and administrative offices.