Mortgage forbearances drop 22% from May peak


There are 3.7 million U.S. homeowners with mortgages in forbearance this week, down 22% from May’s peak of 4.7 million, Black Knight said in a report on Friday.

The total weekly drop was 66,000 loans, a slower pace than the decline of 150,000 in the prior week, the report said. Measured as a share of all mortgages, 7% of home loans are in forbearance, down from 7.1% in the prior week, Black Knight said.

The forbearances rate for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, known as government-sponsored enterprises, is 5% this week, down from 5.1% last week, the report said.

The rate for home loans in Ginnie Mae securities, primarily mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or the Veterans Administration, is 11.3%, down from 11.5%. The forbearance share for mortgages held in bank portfolios or in private-label bonds is 7.4%, down from 7.5%.

“We’re seeing a bifurcation in the numbers, with GSE forbearances lower than the rates for the Ginnie space and the private-label space,” said Walt Schmidt, FTN Financial’s head of mortgage strategy.

The overall number of mortgages in forbearance has dropped as the jobs market gained, Schmidt said.

The unemployment rate in August was 8.4%, the lowest level since March. In April, the rate reached 14.7%, the highest in a Labor Department data series that goes back to 1948.

While the economy has added 10.6 million jobs since April, it’s not even halfway toward replacing the 22.2 million jobs lost between February and March, according to government data.

Most economists are predicting the soft jobs market will persist into 2021. Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan forecasts the unemployment rate will average 8.8% in 2020 and 7.1% next year.

The CARES Act passed by Congress at the end of March gave mortgage borrowers the option of suspending their monthly payments for up to 12 months because of the pandemic. Borrowers just have to attest to their mortgage servicer that they have experienced a financial loss because of the health crisis.



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David Stevens: Calabria may be “the absolute worst person for this job at this time”


Over the last several weeks, the housing industry’s finance sector has lobbied the government to set up a federally-backed liquidity facility for U.S. mortgage servicers to address a substantial increase in forbearance requests from the nation’s financially strained borrowers. HousingWire Digital Producer Alcynna Lloyd sat down with the former head of the Federal Housing Administration and former Mortgage Bankers Association President David Stevens, who now serves as CEO at Mountain Lake Consulting to gauge his thoughts on whether or not the government has done enough to address the issue.

Below you will find two of the six questions Stevens answered with the full audio in a video at the end. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Alcynna Lloyd: You have been very outspoken on the forbearance issue and what the Federal Housing Finance Agency and GSEs should be doing. Do you think their recent efforts have been enough to address the industry’s forbearance concerns?

David Stevens: I’m glad they did something, but it’s a little bit late. We already saw significant credit tightening as a result of the FHFA not stepping in. Instead of having servicers be required to advance forbearance payments for the full term of forbearance, they kept it at four months only at which point the GSEs would then take over the advance requirements. The problem is that in that four-month period, we could see an extraordinary amount of liquidity being advanced, and unlike other forbearance programs that have existed prior to the CARES Act, I don’t think we’ll get any repayment back until the borrower ends his or her forbearance plan and begins to repay their advances, which could take months or years. So, there’s still an outrageous amount of liquidity being advanced for servicing that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own, and it’s putting a really outrageous amount of liquidity pressure onto the nonbank community.

Alcynna Lloyd:  FHFA Director Mark Calabria recently said that no nonbank is too big to fail and that he expects forbearance requests to remain at low. The industry has said otherwise and data shows that forbearance has already passed Calabria’s projections. Do you think anyone can change Calabria’s mind or philosophy?

David Stevens: Mark is a libertarian. His perspective is that the government should not intervene in housing markets, and he’s been very vocal over the years about the role of FHA and the GSEs being too big. I believe he is exercising his economic philosophy that the markets will improve without intervention. I think his recent comments were blasphemous and they aided in additional tightening of credit. The statements also reflect his lack of experience in the business. He’s never been in the industry; he’s always been an economist. I’ve seen much more aggressive positions taken about his job right now. I think Mark is being naive, and putting the housing finance system at risk. More importantly, this is going to have huge negative pressure on an economy that’s already struggling. The housing system is 40 basis points of the gross domestic product and about a fifth of GDP is housing. This will be a core component of economic recovery, and you want it to be strong as we go back to work. Mark is doing anything but providing that support.

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Government snafus boost mortgage forbearance


making payment on computer

The plan to keep Americans current on their mortgage payments amid the COVID-19 pandemic was supposed to work this way: The millions who lost their jobs would get beefed-up unemployment benefits aimed at fully replacing salaries, and for the first time gig workers would be included.

For good measure, the government would send out $1,200 checks to most Americans “as rapidly as possible,” according to the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress last month.

Except, none of it has happened rapidly enough to prevent a spike in requests for mortgage forbearance – a temporary suspension of loan payments that must be paid back.

Millions of Americans haven’t been able to get through to besieged state unemployment offices to file for benefits despite calling dozens of times a day and trying tricks like getting up in the middle of the night to see if websites overwhelmed by high demand are restored to working order.

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Record number of renters believe renting is more affordable than owning


A recent report from CoreLogic showed that home prices increased 4% year over year in December, and projected the U.S. price index will rise by 5.2% by December 2020.

As home prices continue to rise nationally, it’s little wonder that Freddie Mac’s latest “Profile of Today’s Renter and Owner” found that the majority of current renters believe renting is more affordable than owning.

However, the percentage of renters who hold that belief has increased dramatically in the past year.

A whopping 84% of renters said they believe renting is more affordable than owning – an all-time high for the survey. For comparison, this number is up 17 percentage points from February 2018.

The survey also found that affordability issues affect the average renter more than a homeowner. Freddie Mac said there are 42% of renters who paid more than a third of their household income on rent.

This is compared to only 24% of homeowners who spend that amount on mortgage payments.

But there is good news for renters looking to own. Given current low interest rates, 40% of renters said they plan to purchase a home.

“The housing market is strong and, based on our survey, the low mortgage rate environment may inspire both renters and owners to make an educated move this spring,” said David Brickman, Freddie Mac CEO. “While Baby Boomers tend to be satisfied with their current housing situation, younger generations are still struggling to determine whether to rent or purchase a home, largely due to lack of supply and affordability constraints.”

And that lack of supply stretches beyond single-family housing. Last year saw record-high occupancy rates in multifamily housing with a shortage of supply. Naturally, this drove rent growth. Many of the renters surveyed by Freddie Mac voiced their worry in this area.

Almost 70% of renters said they are growing more concerned about their rent going up in the next 12 months, while 68% are concerned about not being able to afford their larger expenses. Even so, according to the majority surveyed, renting is still the more affordable option.



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5 New Year’s Resolutions That Can Help You Buy a Home


New year, new home? Whip your financial resume into shape to improve your home-buying odds.

Thinking of buying a home this year? We compiled five New Year’s resolutions that can help you keep your financial resume in tiptop shape.

1. Avoid job hopping

Employment history and income are two of the biggest factors lenders look at when evaluating a mortgage application. A new job may be a good career move, but if you plan to buy a home in the new year, know that job hopping can be a red flag to some underwriters — especially if you’re moving to a different industry.

A steady job history and few or no gaps in employment over the past two years are ideal, as it helps lenders more easily forecast your future income.

If you do get a new job while home shopping, let your lender know as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for a mortgage — just be prepared to show extra documentation.

If you’re moving from a commissioned or hourly job to one that’s salaried with equal or more compensation, it may help your application. Lenders often prefer borrowers to have steady, predictable paychecks.

2. Limit monthly subscription services

Monthly subscription services are certainly convenient, but they can add up. Even if you pay off your credit card every month, you could be dinged for high credit utilization if your credit report is pulled midcycle.

If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, consider keeping your monthly subscription services to a minimum.

3. Build a solid credit history

One of the first things a lender will look at is your credit history. Lenders prefer borrowers who have a history of paying off credits cards and other debts on time — because it signals that you’re a responsible borrower and less of a risk.

If you don’t have credit, securing a home loan may be significantly more challenging and time-consuming, but not impossible. Records of paying rent and utilities on time, as well as student loan debt or cell phone bills, can help show a potential lender that you have a history of managing monthly payments.

4. Check your credit

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your ability to buy a home. A low credit score can negatively affect how much money a lender is willing to loan you, as well as your interest rate.

Just a few percentage point differences in an interest rate can cost you thousands over the life of a loan. Monitor your credit closely, especially for fraudulent activity, to prevent any surprises that could delay the loan application process.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, many financial websites offer credit score monitoring, or you can get a full credit report once a year.

5. Avoid large purchases

Avoid taking on large amounts of debt — whether it’s buying a car or planning a large vacation — before buying a house. This is advisable even if you’re already preapproved.

Your debt-to-income ratio, or how much money you make compared to how much debt you have, can significantly affect how much money a lender is willing to give you. Keeping debts to a minimum can help make the home-buying process go a lot more smoothly.

Just like proofreading your resume before you apply for a job, cleaning up your financial resume can help improve your chances of buying a home.

Take advantage of online tools and resources, like our affordability calculator, which can help you determine how much home you can afford. Our mortgage calculator can also provide custom down payment estimates based on home price and interest rates. And as you search for your future home, check out our extensive lender and agent reviews, which can help you find the best real estate partners for your needs.

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Originally published January 2018



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