Mortgage bailout sees biggest one-week decline, but more borrowers are extending terms


A man walks past the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, June 25, 2020.

Al Drago | Reuters

The number of homeowners in government and private sector mortgage bailout plans declined for the second straight week, as borrowers who got in earliest saw their plans expire.

More borrowers, however, are getting extensions of those initial three-month plans, proving the pain in the market is not over yet.

As of Tuesday, the volume of loans in active forbearance, in which borrowers are allowed to delay their monthly payments, fell by 435,000 from the previous week, according to Black Knight, a mortgage data and technology firm. That is the largest one-week drop yet.

Roughly 4.14 million loans were in forbearance, representing 7.8% of all active mortgages, down from 8.6% the prior week. That’s the lowest amount since April 28. These loans together represent just under $900 billion in unpaid principal.  

By category, about 6% of all mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and 11.6% of all FHA/VA loans are in forbearance plans. Just over 8.2% of loans in private label securities or banks’ portfolios are also in forbearance. The largest drop in forbearances was in Fannie and Freddie mortgages, down by 200,000 during the week

“The reduction of roughly 435,000 was driven at least in part by the fact that more than half of all active forbearance plans entering the month were set to expire at the end of June,” said Andy Walden, an economist with Black Knight. “While the majority of those have been extended, this week’s data suggests a significant share were not.”

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More than 26% of loans in forbearance were extensions, according to a count by the Mortgage Bankers Association for the week ending June 28. That share has increased steadily for the past three weeks. 

The bulk of the loans in forbearance are government backed and part of the mortgage bailout program in the CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in March. It allows borrowers to miss monthly payments for at least three months and potentially up to a year. Those payments can be remitted either in repayment plans, loan modifications, or when the home is sold or the mortgage refinanced. For loans not backed by the government, most banks and private lenders have set up similar plans.

While the drop in active mortgage forbearances is encouraging, recent spikes in coronavirus cases in various states, in addition to the expiration of expanded unemployment benefits at the end of this month, present significant risk to the recovery in the mortgage market. 



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