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Mortgage Forbearances Continue Climbing, Albeit a Bit Slower


May 21, 2020 by Marc Rapport

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, the word "forbearance" was a perhaps somewhat obscure term for a rarely used type of relief for financially troubled homeowners, especially in an economy that had been going strong for years.

Now, not so much. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), in its weekly Forbearance and Call Volume Survey released Monday, May 18, says an estimated 4.1 million homeowners are now enrolled in such plans.

That's an estimated 8.16% of total servicers' volume in such deferred payment programs, up 3,164% from the 0.25% of mortgage volume in forbearance in early March.

Refinancing and application rise feed optimism

Last week's number was 7.91%, the MBA said, and the pace of requests is rising more slowly than when the pandemic first took hold of the U.S. economy, sending joblessness soaring and millions of household incomes plummeting.

That might be because so many loans are already in delayed payment plans, and because so many homeowners have also taken advantage of low interest rates to refinance their mortgages and save money on monthly payments.

MBA chief economist Mike Fratantoni also expressed this optimistic note: "Furthermore, the consecutive increase in purchase applications in the last four weeks is a sign that housing demand is strengthening as more states ease restrictions on activity and people get back to work."

Ginnie Mae notes hit the hardest

The highest segment of loans in forbearance by investment type belonged to Ginnie Mae at 11.26%. Fratantoni pinned that on the number of FHA and VA borrowers who are likely in employment sectors hardest hit by the economic crisis.

Loans in forbearance at depository servicers such as banks and credit unions were at 8.99% in the latest survey and at 7.85% for independent mortgage bank servicers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans recorded a forbearance rate of 6.25% in this week's survey.

"We will continue to closely monitor the forbearance request and call volume data for any sign of an uptick," Fratantoni said, "but current trends suggest that if the economy continues to gradually reopen, the situation could be stabilizing."

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