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Why the Forbearance Program Changed the Housing Market

When the pandemic hit in 2020, many experts thought the housing market would crash. They feared job loss and economic uncertainty would lead to a wave of foreclosures similar to when the housing bubble burst over a decade ago. Thankfully, the forbearance program changed that. It provided much-needed relief for homeowners so a foreclosure crisis wouldn’t happen again. Here’s why forbearance worked.

Forbearance enabled nearly five million homeowners to get back on their feet in a time when having the security and protection of a home was more important than ever. Those in need were able to work with their banks and lenders to stay in their homes rather than go into foreclosure. Marina Walsh, Vice President of Industry Analysis at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), notes:

“Most borrowers exiting forbearance are moving into either a loan modification, payment deferral, or a combination of the two workout options.”

As the graph below shows, with modification, deferral, and workout options in place, four out of every five homeowners in forbearance are either paid in full or are exiting with a plan. They’re able to stay in their homes.

Why the Forbearance Program Changed the Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

What does this mean for the housing market?

Since so many people can stay in their homes and work out alternative options, there won’t be a wave of foreclosures coming to the market. And while rising slightly since the foreclosure moratorium was lifted this year, foreclosures today are still nowhere near the levels seen in the housing crisis.

Forbearance wasn’t the only game changer, either. Lending standards have improved significantly since the housing bubble burst, and that’s one more thing keeping foreclosure filings low. Today’s borrowers are much more qualified to pay their home loans.

And while the majority of homeowners are exiting the forbearance program with a plan, for those who still need to make a change due to financial hardship or other challenges, today’s record-level of equity is giving them the opportunity to sell their houses and avoid foreclosure altogether. Homeowners have options they just didn’t have in the housing crisis when so many people owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. Thanks to their equity and the current undersupply of homes on the market, homeowners can sell their houses, make a move, and not have to go through the foreclosure process that led to the housing market crash in 2008.

Thomas LaSalvia, Chief Economist with Moody’s Analytics, states:

“There’s some excess savings out there, over 2 trillion worth. . . . There are people that have ownership of those homes right now, that even in a downturn, they’d still likely be able to pay that mortgage and won’t have to hand over keys. And there won’t be a lot of those distressed sales that happened in the 2008 crisis.”

Bottom Line

The forbearance program was a game changer for homeowners in need. It’s one of the big reasons why we won’t see a wave of foreclosures coming to the market.

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3 Graphs To Show This Isn’t a Housing Bubble

With all the headlines and buzz in the media, some consumers believe the market is in a housing bubble. As the housing market shifts, you may be wondering what’ll happen next. It’s only natural for concerns to creep in that it could be a repeat of what took place in 2008. The good news is, there’s concrete data to show why this is nothing like the last time.

There’s a Shortage of Homes on the Market Today, Not a Surplus

The supply of inventory needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will causes prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued price appreciation.

For historical context, there were too many homes for sale during the housing crisis (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to tumble. Today, supply is growing, but there’s still a shortage of inventory available.

The graph below uses data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to show how this time compares to the crash. Today, unsold inventory sits at just a 3.0-months’ supply at the current sales pace.

3 Graphs To Show This Isn’t a Housing Bubble | Simplifying The Market

One of the reasons inventory is still low is because of sustained underbuilding. When you couple that with ongoing buyer demand as millennials age into their peak homebuying years, it continues to put upward pressure on home prices. That limited supply compared to buyer demand is why experts forecast home prices won’t fall this time.

Mortgage Standards Were Much More Relaxed During the Crash

During the lead-up to the housing crisis, it was much easier to get a home loan than it is today. The graph below showcases data on the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The higher the number, the easier it is to get a mortgage.

3 Graphs To Show This Isn’t a Housing Bubble | Simplifying The Market

Running up to 2006, banks were creating artificial demand by lowering lending standards and making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance their current home. Back then, lending institutions took on much greater risk in both the person and the mortgage products offered. That led to mass defaults, foreclosures, and falling prices.

Today, things are different, and purchasers face much higher standards from mortgage companies. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, says:

Credit standards tightened in recent months due to increasing economic uncertainty and monetary policy tightening.” 

Stricter standards, like there are today, help prevent a risk of a rash of foreclosures like there was last time.

The Foreclosure Volume Is Nothing Like It Was During the Crash

The most obvious difference is the number of homeowners that were facing foreclosure after the housing bubble burst. Foreclosure activity has been on the way down since the crash because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans. The graph below uses data from ATTOM Data Solutions to help tell the story:

3 Graphs To Show This Isn’t a Housing Bubble | Simplifying The Market

In addition, homeowners today are equity rich, not tapped out. In the run-up to the housing bubble, some homeowners were using their homes as personal ATMs. Many immediately withdrew their equity once it built up. When home values began to fall, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the amount they owed on their mortgage was greater than the value of their home. Some of those households decided to walk away from their homes, and that led to a wave of distressed property listings (foreclosures and short sales), which sold at considerable discounts that lowered the value of other homes in the area.

Today, prices have risen nicely over the last few years, and that’s given homeowners an equity boost. According to Black Knight:

In total, mortgage holders gained $2.8 trillion in tappable equity over the past 12 months – a 34% increase that equates to more than $207,000 in equity available per borrower. . . .”

With the average home equity now standing at $207,000, homeowners are in a completely different position this time.

Bottom Line

If you’re worried we’re making the same mistakes that led to the housing crash, the graphs above should help alleviate your concerns. Concrete data and expert insights clearly show why this is nothing like the last time.

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What You Actually Need To Know About the Number of Foreclosures in Today’s Housing Market

While you may have seen recent stories about the volume of foreclosures today, context is important. During the pandemic, many homeowners were able to pause their mortgage payments using the forbearance program. The goal was to help homeowners financially during the uncertainty created by the health crisis.

When the forbearance program began, many experts were concerned it would result in a wave of foreclosures coming to the market, as there was after the housing crash in 2008. Here’s a look at why the number of foreclosures we’re seeing today is nothing like the last time.

1. There Are Fewer Homeowners in Trouble

Today’s data shows that most homeowners are exiting their forbearance plan either fully caught up on payments or with a plan from the bank that restructured their loan in a way that allowed them to start making payments again. The graph below depicts those findings from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA):

What You Actually Need To Know About the Number of Foreclosures in Today’s Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

The same MBA report mentioned above estimates there are approximately 525,000 homeowners who remain in forbearance today. Thankfully, those people still have the chance to work out a suitable repayment plan with the servicing company that represents their lender.

2. Most Homeowners Have Enough Equity To Sell Their Homes

For those who are exiting the forbearance program without a plan in place, many will have enough equity to sell their homes instead of facing foreclosures. Due to rapidly rising home prices over the last two years, the average homeowner has gained record amounts of equity in their home.

Marina Walsh, CMB, Vice President of Industry Analysis at MBA, says:

“Given the nation’s limited housing inventory and the variety of home retention and foreclosure alternatives on the table across various loan
types, . . . Borrowers have more choices today to either stay in their homes or sell without resorting to a foreclosure.”

3. There Have Been Fewer Foreclosures over the Last Two Years

One of the seldom-reported benefits of the forbearance program was it gave homeowners facing difficulties an extra two years to get their finances in order and work out a plan with their lender. That helped prevent the foreclosures that normally would have come to the market had the new forbearance program not been available.

Even as people leave the forbearance program, there are still fewer foreclosures happening today than before the pandemic. That means, while there are more foreclosures now compared to last year (when foreclosures were paused), the number is still well below what the housing market has seen in a more typical year, like 2017-2019 (see graph below):

What You Actually Need To Know About the Number of Foreclosures in Today’s Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

4. The Current Market Can Easily Absorb New Listings

When the foreclosures in 2008 hit the market, they added to the oversupply of houses that were already for sale. It’s exactly the opposite today. The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reveals:

“Total housing inventory at the end of March totaled 950,000 units, up 11.8% from February and down 9.5% from one year ago (1.05 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.0-month supply at the present sales pace, up from 1.7 months in February and down from 2.1 months in March 2021.”

A balanced market would have approximately a six-month supply of inventory. At 2.0 months, today’s housing market is severely understocked. Even if one million homes enter the market, there still won’t be enough inventory to meet the current demand.

Bottom Line

If you see headlines about the increasing number of foreclosures today, remember context is important. While it’s true the number of foreclosures is higher now than it was last year, foreclosures are still well below pre-pandemic years.

If you have questions, let’s connect to talk through the latest market conditions and what they mean for you.

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Why This Housing Market Is Not a Bubble Ready To Pop

Homeownership has become a major element in achieving the American Dream. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) finds that over 86% of buyers agree homeownership is still the American Dream.

Prior to the 1950s, less than half of the country owned their own home. However, after World War II, many returning veterans used the benefits afforded by the GI Bill to purchase a home. Since then, the percentage of homeowners throughout the country has increased to the current rate of 65.5%. That strong desire for homeownership has kept home values appreciating ever since. The graph below tracks home price appreciation since the end of World War II:

Why This Housing Market Is Not a Bubble Ready To Pop | Simplifying The Market

The graph shows the only time home values dropped significantly was during the housing boom and bust of 2006-2008. If you look at how prices spiked prior to 2006, it looks a bit like the current spike in prices over the past two years. That may lead some people to be concerned we’re about to see a similar fall in home values as we did when the bubble burst. To help alleviate those worries, let’s look at what happened last time and what’s happening today.

What Caused the Housing Crash 15 Years Ago?

Back in 2006, foreclosures flooded the market. That drove down home values dramatically. The two main reasons for the flood of foreclosures were:

1. Many purchasers were not truly qualified for the mortgage they obtained, which led to more homes turning into foreclosures.
2. A number of homeowners cashed in the equity on their homes. When prices dropped, they found themselves in an underwater situation (where the home was worth less than the mortgage on the house). Many of these homeowners walked away from their homes, leading to more foreclosures. This lowered neighboring home values even more.

This cycle continued for years.

Why Today’s Real Estate Market Is Different

Here are two reasons today’s market is nothing like the one we experienced 15 years ago.

1. Today, Demand for Homeownership Is Real (Not Artificially Generated)

Running up to 2006, banks were creating artificial demand by lowering lending standards and making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance their current home. Today, purchasers and those refinancing a home face much higher standards from mortgage companies.

Data from the Urban Institute shows the amount of risk banks were willing to take on then as compared to now.

Why This Housing Market Is Not a Bubble Ready To Pop | Simplifying The Market

There’s always risk when a bank loans money. However, leading up to the housing crash 15 years ago, lending institutions took on much greater risks in both the person and the mortgage product offered. That led to mass defaults, foreclosures, and falling prices.

Today, the demand for homeownership is real. It’s generated by a re-evaluation of the importance of home due to a worldwide pandemic. Additionally, lending standards are much stricter in the current lending environment. Purchasers can afford the mortgage they’re taking on, so there’s little concern about possible defaults.

And if you’re worried about the number of people still in forbearance, you should know there’s no risk of that causing an upheaval in the housing market today. There won’t be a flood of foreclosures.

2. People Are Not Using Their Homes as ATMs Like They Did in the Early 2000s

As mentioned above, when prices were rapidly escalating in the early 2000s, many thought it would never end. They started to borrow against the equity in their homes to finance new cars, boats, and vacations. When prices started to fall, many of these homeowners were underwater, leading some to abandon their homes. This increased the number of foreclosures.

Homeowners didn’t forget the lessons of the crash as prices skyrocketed over the last few years. Black Knight reports that tappable equity (the amount of equity available for homeowners to access before hitting a maximum 80% loan-to-value ratio, or LTV) has more than doubled compared to 2006 ($4.6 trillion to $9.9 trillion).

The latest Homeowner Equity Insights report from CoreLogic reveals that the average homeowner gained $55,300 in home equity over the past year alone. Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, reports:

“Homeowners in Q4 2021 had an average of $307,000 in equity – a historic high.”

ATTOM Data Services also reveals that 41.9% of all mortgaged homes have at least 50% equity. These homeowners will not face an underwater situation even if prices dip slightly. Today, homeowners are much more cautious.

Bottom Line

The major reason for the housing crash 15 years ago was a tsunami of foreclosures. With much stricter mortgage standards and a historic level of homeowner equity, the fear of massive foreclosures impacting today’s market is not realistic.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read: The Truth Many Headlines Overlook

There are a lot of questions right now regarding the real estate market as we head into 2022. The forbearance program is coming to an end and mortgage rates are beginning to rise.

With all of this uncertainty, anyone with a megaphone – from the mainstream media to a lone blogger – has realized that bad news sells. Unfortunately, we’ll continue to see a rash of troublesome headlines over the next few months. To make sure you aren’t paralyzed by a headline, turn to reliable resources for a look at what to expect from the housing market next year.

There are already alarmist headlines starting to appear. Here are two recent topics you may have seen in the news.

1. Foreclosures Are Spiking Today

There are a number of headlines circulating that call out the rising foreclosures in today’s real estate market. Those stories focus on an overly narrow view on that topic: the current volume of foreclosures compared to 2020. They emphasize that we’re seeing far more foreclosures this year compared to last.

That seems rather daunting. However, though it’s true foreclosures have been up over the 2020 numbers, it’s important to realize that there were virtually no foreclosures last year because of the forbearance plan. If we compare this September to September of 2019 (the last normal year), foreclosures were down 70% according to ATTOM.

Even Rick Sharga, an Executive Vice President of the firm that issued the report referenced in the above article, says:

“As expected, now that the moratorium has been over for three months, foreclosure activity continues to increase. But it’s increasing at a slower rate, and it appears that most of the activity is primarily on vacant and abandoned properties, or loans in foreclosure prior to the pandemic.”

Homeowners who have been impacted by the pandemic are not generally the ones being burdened right now. That’s because the forbearance program has worked. Ali Haralson, President of Auction.com, explains that the program has done a remarkable job:

“The tsunami of foreclosures many feared in the early days of the pandemic has not materialized thanks in large part to the swift and decisive foreclosure protections put in place by government policymakers and the mortgage servicing industry.”

And the government is still making sure homeowners have every opportunity to stay in their homes. Rohit Chopra, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), issued this statement just last week:

“Failures by mortgage servicers and regulators worsened the impact of the economic crisis a decade ago. Regulators have learned their lesson, and we will be scrutinizing servicers to ensure they are doing all they can to help homeowners and follow the law.”

2. Rising Mortgage Rates Will Slow the Housing Market

Another topic that’s generating frequent headlines is the rise in mortgage rates. Some people are expressing concern that rising rates will negatively impact the housing market by causing home sales to dramatically decline. The resulting headlines are raising unneeded alarm bells. To counteract those headlines, we need to take a look at what history tells us. Looking at data over the last 20 years, there’s no evidence that an increase in rates dramatically forces sales to come to a halt. Nor does home price appreciation come to a screeching stop. Let’s look at home sales first:Don't Believe Everything You Read: The Truth Many Headlines Overlook | Simplifying The MarketThe last three times rates increased (shown in the graph above in red), sales (depicted in blue in the graph) remained rather consistent. It’s true that sales fell rather dramatically from 2007 through 2010, but mortgage rates were also falling at the time. The next two instances showed no meaningful drop in sales.

Now, let’s take a look at home price appreciation (see graph below):Don't Believe Everything You Read: The Truth Many Headlines Overlook | Simplifying The MarketAgain, we see that a rise in rates didn’t cause prices to depreciate. Outside of the years following the crash, prices continued to appreciate, just at a slower rate.

Bottom Line

There’s a lot of misinformation out there. If you want the best advice on what’s happening in the current housing market, let’s connect.

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Why a Wave of Foreclosures Is Not on the Way

With forbearance plans coming to an end, many are concerned the housing market will experience a wave of foreclosures similar to what happened after the housing bubble 15 years ago. Here are a few reasons why that won’t happen.

There are fewer homeowners in trouble this time

After the last housing crash, about 9.3 million households lost their homes to a foreclosure, short sale, or because they simply gave it back to the bank.

As stay-at-home orders were issued early last year, the fear was the pandemic would impact the housing industry in a similar way. Many projected up to 30% of all mortgage holders would enter the forbearance program. In reality, only 8.5% actually did, and that number is now down to 2.2%.

As of last Friday, the total number of mortgages still in forbearance stood at 1,221,000. That’s far fewer than the 9.3 million households that lost their homes just over a decade ago.

Most of the mortgages in forbearance have enough equity to sell their homes

Due to rapidly rising home prices over the last two years, of the 1.22 million homeowners currently in forbearance, 93% have at least 10% equity in their homes. This 10% equity is important because it enables homeowners to sell their homes and pay the related expenses instead of facing the hit on their credit that a foreclosure or short sale would create.

The remaining 7% might not have the option to sell, but if the entire 7% of those 1.22 million homes went into foreclosure, that would total about 85,400 mortgages. To give that number context, here are the annual foreclosure numbers for the three years leading up to the pandemic:

  • 2017: 314,220
  • 2018: 279,040
  • 2019: 277,520

The probable number of foreclosures coming out of the forbearance program is nowhere near the number of foreclosures that impacted the housing crash 15 years ago. It’s actually less than one-third of any of the three years prior to the pandemic.

The current market can absorb listings coming to the market

When foreclosures hit the market back in 2008, there was an oversupply of houses for sale. It’s exactly the opposite today. In 2008, there was over a nine-month supply of listings on the market. Today, that number is less than a three-month supply. Here’s a graph showing the difference between the two markets.Why a Wave of Foreclosures Is Not on the Way | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

The data indicates why Ivy Zelman, founder of the major housing market analytical firm Zelman and Associates, was on point when she stated:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

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Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure

Even though experts agree there’s no chance of a large-scale foreclosure crisis, there are a number of homeowners who may be coming face-to-face with foreclosure as a possibility. And while the overall percentage of homeowners at risk is decreasing with time (see graph below), that’s little comfort to those individuals who are facing challenges today.Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure | Simplifying The MarketIf you haven’t taken advantage of the forbearance period, it may be time to research and understand your options. It starts with knowing what foreclosure is. Investopedia defines it like this:

Foreclosure is the legal process by which a lender attempts to recover the amount owed on a defaulted loan by taking ownership of and selling the mortgaged property. Typically, default is triggered when a borrower misses a specific number of monthly payments . . .” 

The good news is, there are alternatives available to help you avoid having to go through the foreclosure process, including:

  • Reinstatement
  • Loan modification
  • Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure
  • Short sale

But before you go down any of those paths, it’s worth seeing if you have enough equity in your home to sell it and protect your investment.

Understand Your Options: Sell Your House

Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation.

In today’s real estate market, many homeowners have far more equity in their homes than they realize. Over the last year, buyer demand has been high, but housing supply has been low. That’s led to a substantial increase in home values. When prices rise, so does the amount of equity you have in your house.

According to CoreLogic, on average, homeowners gained $33,400 in equity over the last 12 months, and the average equity on mortgaged homes is now $216,000 (see map below):Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure | Simplifying The MarketSo, what does that mean for you? Over the past year, chances are your home’s value and therefore your equity has risen dramatically. If you’ve been in your home for a while, the mortgage payments you’ve made over time chipped away at the balance of your loan. If your home’s current value is higher than what you still owe on your loan, you may be able to use that increase to your advantage.

Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, elaborates on how equity can help:

Homeowner equity has more than doubled over the past decade and become a crucial buffer for many weathering the challenges of the pandemic. These gains have become an important financial tool and boosted consumer confidence in the U.S. housing market.”

Don’t Go at It Alone – Lean on Experts for Advice

To find out what your house is worth in today’s market, work with a local real estate professional. We’ll be able to give you an estimate of what your house could sell for based on recent sales of similar homes in your area. Since home prices are still appreciating, you may be able to sell your house to avoid foreclosure.

If you find out that you have to pursue other options, your agent can help with that too. We’ll be able to connect you with other professionals in the industry, like housing counselors who can look into your unique situation and offer advice on next steps if selling isn’t the best alternative.

Bottom Line

If you’re a homeowner facing hardship, let’s connect to explore your options and see if you can sell your house to avoid foreclosure.

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4 Reasons Why the End of Forbearance Will Not Lead to a Wave of Foreclosures

With forbearance plans about to come to an end, many are concerned the housing market will experience a wave of foreclosures like what happened after the housing bubble 15 years ago. Here are four reasons why that won’t happen.

1. There are fewer homeowners in trouble this time

After the last housing crash, about 9.3 million households lost their home to a foreclosure, short sale, or because they simply gave it back to the bank.

As stay-at-home orders were issued early last year, the overwhelming fear was the pandemic would decimate the housing industry in a similar way. Many experts projected 30% of all mortgage holders would enter the forbearance program. Only 8.5% actually did, and that number is now down to 3.5%.

As of last Friday, the total number of mortgages still in forbearance stood at  1,863,000. That’s definitely a large number, but nowhere near 9.3 million.

2. Most of the 1.86M in forbearance have enough equity to sell their home

Of the 1.86 million homeowners currently in forbearance, 87% have at least 10% equity in their homes. The 10% equity number is important because it enables homeowners to sell their houses and pay the related expenses instead of facing the hit on their credit that a foreclosure or short sale would create.

The remaining 13% might not all have the option to sell, so if the entire 13% of the 1.86M homes went into foreclosure, that would total 241,800 mortgages. To give that number context, here are the annual foreclosure numbers of the three years leading up to the pandemic:

  • 2017: 314,220
  • 2018: 279,040
  • 2019: 277,520

The probable number of foreclosures coming out of the forbearance program is nowhere near the number of foreclosures coming out of the housing crash 15 years ago. The number does, however, draw a similar comparison to the three years prior to the pandemic.

3. The current market can absorb any listings coming to the market

When foreclosures hit the market in 2008, there was an excess supply of homes for sale. The situation is exactly the opposite today. In 2008, there was a 9-month supply of listings for sale. Today, that number stands at less than 3 months of inventory on the market.

As Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains when addressing potential foreclosures emerging from the forbearance program:

“Any foreclosure increases will likely be quickly absorbed by the market. It will not lead to any price declines.”

4. Those in power will do whatever is necessary to prevent a wave of foreclosures

Just last Friday, the White House released a fact sheet explaining how homeowners with government-backed mortgages will be given further options to enable them to keep their homes when exiting forbearance. Here are two examples mentioned in the release:

  • “For homeowners who can resume their pre-pandemic monthly mortgage payment and where agencies have the authority, agencies will continue requiring mortgage servicers to offer options that allow borrowers to move missed payments to the end of the mortgage at no additional cost to the borrower.”
  • “The new steps the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are announcing will aim to provide homeowners with a roughly 25% reduction in borrowers’ monthly principal and interest (P&I) payments to ensure they can afford to remain in their homes and build equity long-term. This brings options for homeowners with mortgages backed by HUD, USDA, and VA closer in alignment with options for homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

When evaluating the four reasons above, it’s clear there won’t be a flood of foreclosures coming to the market as the forbearance program winds down.

Bottom Line

As Ivy Zelman, founder of the major housing market analytical firm Zelman & Associates, notes:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

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It’s Not Too Late To Apply For Forbearance

Over the past year, the pandemic made it challenging for some homeowners to make their mortgage payments. Thankfully, the government initiated a forbearance program to provide much-needed support. Unless they’re extended once again, some of these plans and the corresponding mortgage payment deferral options will expire soon. That said, there’s still time to request assistance. If your loan is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or VA, you can apply for initial forbearance by June 30, 2021.

Recently, the Consumer Finance Institute of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia surveyed a national sample of 1,172 homeowners with mortgages. They discussed their familiarity with and understanding of lender accommodations that might be available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The results indicate that some borrowers didn’t take advantage of the support available through forbearance:

Most borrowers who had not used forbearance during the pandemic reported that it was because they simply did not need it. However, among the remainder, a lack of understanding about available accommodations may also be playing a role. Around 2 out of 3 in this group reported not seeking forbearance because they were unsure or pessimistic about whether they would qualify — even though a high fraction of borrowers are eligible for forbearance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Here are some of the reasons why those borrowers didn’t opt for forbearance:

  • They were concerned forbearance may be costly
  • They didn’t understand how to request forbearance
  • They didn’t understand how the plans worked and/or whether they would qualify

If you have similar questions or concerns, the following answers may ease your fears.

If you’re concerned forbearance may be costly:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains:

For most loans, there will be no additional fees, penalties, or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account, and you do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify. You can simply tell your servicer that you have a pandemic-related financial hardship.”

It’s important to contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to every month) to explain your current situation and determine the best plan available for your needs.

If you’re not sure how to request forbearance:

Here are 5 steps to follow when requesting mortgage forbearance:

  1. Find the contact information for your servicer
  2. Call your servicer
  3. Ask if you’re eligible for protection under the CARES Act
  4. Ask what happens when your forbearance period ends
  5. Ask your servicer to provide the agreement in writing

If you don’t understand how the plans work and/or whether you will qualify:

This is how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains the program:

Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited time while you build back your finances

Forbearance doesn’t mean your payments are forgiven or erased. You are still obligated to repay any missed payments, which, in most cases, may be repaid over time or when you refinance or sell your home. Before the end of the forbearance, your servicer will contact you about how to repay the missed payments.”

The CFPB also addresses who qualifies for forbearance relief:

You may have a right to a COVID hardship forbearance if:

  • You experience financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • You have a federally backed mortgage, which includes HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loans.

For mortgages that are not federally backed, servicers may offer similar forbearance options. If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, servicers are generally required to discuss payment relief options with you, whether or not your loan is federally backed.”

Bottom Line

Like many Americans, your home may be your biggest asset. By acting quickly, you might be able to take advantage of critical relief options to help keep you in your home. Even if you tried to apply at the beginning of the pandemic and it for some reason didn’t work out, try again. Contact your mortgage provider today to determine if you qualify. If you have additional concerns, let’s connect to answer your questions and determine if there are other mortgage relief options in our area as well.

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4 Major Reasons Households in Forbearance Won’t Lose Their Homes to Foreclosure

There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially be millions of foreclosures ready to hit the market. However, there are four reasons that won’t happen.

1. Almost 50% Leave Forbearance Already Caught Up on Payments

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), data through March 28 show that 48.9% of homeowners who have already left the program were current on their mortgage payments when they exited.

  • 6% made their monthly payments during their forbearance period
  • 7% brought past due payments current
  • 6% paid off their loan in full

This doesn’t mean that the over two million still in the plan will exit exactly the same way. It does, however, give us some insight into the possibilities.

2. The Banks Don’t Want the Houses Back

Banks have learned lessons from the crash of 2008. Lending institutions don’t want the headaches of managing foreclosed properties. This time, they’re working with homeowners to help them stay in their homes.

As an example, about 50% of all mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In 2008, the FHFA offered 208,000 homeowners some form of Home Retention Action, which are options offered to a borrower who has the financial ability to enter a workout option and wants to stay in their home. Home retention options include temporary forbearances, repayment plans, loan modifications, or partial loan deferrals. These helped delinquent borrowers stay in their homes. Over the past year, the FHFA has offered that same protection to over one million homeowners.

Today, almost all lending institutions are working with their borrowers. The report from the MBA reveals that of those homeowners who have left forbearance,

  • 5% have worked out a repayment plan with their lender
  • 5% were granted a loan deferral where a borrower does not have to pay the lender interest or principal on a loan for an agreed-to period of time
  • 9% were given a loan modification

3. There Is No Political Will to Foreclose on These Households

The government also seems determined not to let individuals or families lose their homes. Bloomberg recently reported:

“Mortgage companies could face penalties if they don’t take steps to prevent a deluge of foreclosures that threatens to hit the housing market later this year, a U.S. regulator said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warning is tied to forbearance relief that’s allowed millions of borrowers to delay their mortgage payments due to the pandemic…mortgage servicers should start reaching out to affected homeowners now to advise them on ways they can modify their loans.”

The CFPB is proposing a new set of guidelines to ensure people will be able to retain their homes. Here are the major points in the proposal:

  • The proposed rule would provide a special pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021.
  • The proposed rule would permit servicers to offer certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships based on the evaluation of an incomplete application.
  • The proposal rule wants temporary changes to certain required servicer communications to make sure borrowers receive key information about their options at the appropriate time.

A final decision is yet to be made, and some do question whether the CFPB has the power to delay foreclosures. The entire report can be found here: Protections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X.

4. If All Else Fails, Homeowners Will Sell Their Homes Before a Foreclosure

Homeowners have record levels of equity today. According to the latest CoreLogic Home Equity Report, the average equity of mortgaged homes is currently $204,000. In addition, 38% of homes do not have a mortgage, so the level of equity available to today’s homeowners is significant.

Just like the banks, homeowners learned a lesson from the housing crash too.

“In the same way that grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression, much of the public today remembers the 2006 mortgage meltdown and the foreclosures, unemployment, and bank failures it created. No one with any sense wants to repeat that experience…and it may explain why so much real estate equity remains mortgage-free.”

What does that mean to the forbearance situation? According to Black Knight:

“Just one in ten homeowners in forbearance has less than 10% equity in their home, typically the minimum necessary to be able to sell through traditional real estate channels to avoid foreclosure.”

Bottom Line

The reports of massive foreclosures about to come to the market are highly exaggerated. As Ivy Zelman, Chief Executive Officer of Zelman & Associates with roughly 30 years of experience covering housing and housing-related industries, recently proclaimed:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”