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Why Today’s Options Will Save Homeowners from Foreclosure

Many housing experts originally voiced concern that the mortgage forbearance program (which allows families impacted financially by COVID to delay mortgage payments to a later date) could lead to an increase in foreclosures when forbearances end.

Some originally forecasted that up to 30% of homeowners would choose to enter forbearance. Less than 10% actually did, and that percentage has been dropping steadily. Black Knight recently reported that the national forbearance rate has decreased to 5.6%, with active forbearances falling below 3 million for the first time since mid-April.

Many of those still in forbearance are actually making timely payments. Christopher Maloney of Bloomberg Wealth recently explained:

“Almost one quarter of all homeowners who have demanded forbearance are still current on their mortgages…according to the latest MBA data.”

However, since over two million homeowners are still in forbearance, some experts are concerned that this might lead to another wave of foreclosures like we saw a little over a decade ago during the Great Recession. Here is why this time is different.

There Will Be Very Few Strategic Defaults

During the housing crash twelve years ago, many homeowners owned a house that was worth less than the mortgage they had on that home (called negative equity or being underwater). Many decided they would just stop making their payments and walk away from the house, which then resulted in the bank foreclosing on the property. These foreclosures were known as strategic defaults. Today, the vast majority of homeowners have significant equity in their homes. This dramatically decreases the possibility of strategic defaults.

Aspen Grove Solutions, a business consulting firm, recently addressed the issue in a study titled Creating Positive Forbearance Outcomes:

“Unlike in 2008, strategic defaults have not emerged as a serious problem and seems unlikely to emerge given stronger expectations for property price increases, a record low inventory of homes, and stable residential underwriting standards leading up to the crisis which has reduced the number of owners who are underwater.”

There Are Other Options That Were Not Available the Last Time

A decade ago, there wasn’t a forbearance option, and most banks did not put in other programs, like modifications and short sales, until very late in the crisis.

Today, homeowners have several options because banks understand the three fundamental differences in today’s real estate market as compared to 2008:

1. Most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes.

2. The real estate market has a shortage of listings for sale. In 2008, homes for sale flooded the market.

3. Prices are appreciating. In 2008, prices were depreciating dramatically.

These differences allow banks to feel comfortable giving options to homeowners when exiting forbearance. Aspen Grove broke down some of these options in the study mentioned above:

  • Refinance Repay: Capitalize forbearance amount – For borrowers who have strong credit, have good or improved equity in their homes, possibly had a higher interest rate on their original loan, have steady employment/no significant wage loss, and income.
  • Repayment Plan: Pay it back in higher monthly payments – For people who cannot reinstate using savings, but have increased monthly income, and do not want to use a deferral program.
  • Deferral Program: Shift payments to the end of the loan term – For borrowers who lost income temporarily and regained most or all of their income but are not in a position to refinance due to credit score, home equity, low total loan value relative to closing costs, or simple apathy.
  • Modification: Flex modification or other mod – For households that permanently lost 20% to 30% of their income, but not all of their income, and want to remain in their home.

Each one of these programs enables the homeowner to remain in the home.

What about Those Who Don’t Qualify for These Programs?

Homeowners who can’t catch up on past payments and don’t qualify for the programs mentioned have two options: sell the house or let it go to foreclosure. Some experts think most will be forced to take the foreclosure route. However, an examination of the data shows that probably won’t be the case.

A decade ago, homeowners had very little equity in their homes. Therefore, selling was not an option unless they were willing to tap into limited savings to cover the cost of selling, like real estate commission, closing costs, and attorney fees. Without any other option, many just decided to stay in the house until they were served a foreclosure notice.

As mentioned above, today is different. Most homeowners now have a large amount of equity in their homes. They will most likely decide to sell their home and take that equity rather than wait for the bank to foreclose.

In a separate report, Black Knight highlighted this issue:

“In total, an estimated 172K loans are in forbearance, have missed three or more payments under their plans and have less than 10% equity in their homes.”

In other words, of the millions currently in a forbearance plan, there are few that likely will become a foreclosure.

Bottom Line

Some analysts are talking about future foreclosures reaching 500,000 to over 1 million. With the options today’s homeowners have, that doesn’t seem likely.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters

Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options?

Earlier this year when the nation pressed pause on the economy and unemployment rates jumped up significantly, many homeowners were immediately concerned about being able to pay their mortgages, and understandably so. To assist in this challenging time, two protection plans were put into place to help support those in need.

First, there was a pause placed on initiating foreclosures for government-backed loans. This plan started on March 18, 2020, and it extends at least through December 31, 2020. Second, homeowners were able to obtain forbearance for up to 180 days, followed by a potential extension for up to another 180 days. This way, there is a relief period in which homeowners have the opportunity to halt payments on their mortgages for up to one year.

Not Everyone Understands Their Options

The challenge, according to Matt Hulstein, Staff Attorney at non-profit Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, is, “A lot of homeowners aren’t aware of this option.”

There’s definitely traction behind this statement. In a recent survey by The National Housing Resource Center, housing counselors from across the country noted that many homeowners really don’t know that there is help available. The following graph indicates the reasons why people who are in this challenging situation are not choosing to enter forbearance:Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options? | Simplifying The MarketThe Urban Institute explained:

“530,000 homeowners who became delinquent after the pandemic began did not take advantage of forbearance, despite being eligible to ask for the plan…These responses reflect a need to provide better information to all homeowners. (Lump-sum payment is not the only repayment option.)

Additionally, 205,000 homeowners who did not extend their forbearance after its term ended in June or July became delinquent on their loans. We need to examine who these people are and why are they not extending their option.”

Clearly, a more focused effort on education about forbearance and relief programs may make a big difference for many people, and a clear understanding of their options is mission-critical. Some communities, however, have been impacted by the economic challenges of the pandemic more so than others, further confirming the need to deliver education more widely. The Urban Institute also indicates:

“Black and Hispanic homeowners have been hit harder than white homeowners…nearly 21 percent of both Black and Hispanic homeowners missed or deferred the previous month’s mortgage payment, compared with 10 percent of white homeowners and about 13 percent of all homeowners with payments due.”

Options Available

It’s important to note that any homeowner experiencing financial hardship has the right to request forbearance. If you’re unfamiliar with the plans available, contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to each month) to discuss your options. It is a necessary next step, as you may qualify for mortgage relief options or forbearance.

One option many homeowners may not realize they have is the ability to sell their house in this time of need. With the growing equity that homeowners have available today, making a move might be the best option to protect your financial future.

Bottom Line

If you need additional information on your options, you can review the Protect Your Investment guide from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Homeowner’s Guide to Success from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For the majority of people, our home is the most important asset we have, and you should use all the help available right now to be able to preserve your investment.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters

Forbearance Numbers Are Lower than Expected

Originally, some housing industry analysts were concerned that the mortgage forbearance program (which allows families to delay payments to a later date) could lead to an increase in foreclosures when forbearances end. Some even worried that we might relive the 2006-2008 housing crash all over again. Once you examine the data, however, that seems unlikely.

As reported by Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American:

“Despite the federal foreclosure moratorium, there were fears that up to 30% of homeowners would require forbearance, ultimately leading to a foreclosure tsunami. Forbearance did not hit 30%, but rather peaked at 8.6% and has been steadily falling since.”

According to the most current data from Black Knight, the percentage of homes in forbearance has fallen to 7.4%. The report also gives the decrease in raw numbers:

“The overall trend of incremental improvement in the number of mortgages in active forbearance continues. According to the latest data from Black Knight’s McDash Flash Forbearance Tracker, the number of mortgages in active forbearance fell by another 71,000 over the past week, pushing the total under 4 million for the first time since early May.”

Here’s a graph showing the decline in forbearances over the last several months:Forbearance Numbers Are Lower than Expected | Simplifying The MarketThe report also explains that across the board, overall forbearance activity fell with 10% fewer new forbearance requests and nearly 40% fewer renewals.

What about potential foreclosures once forbearances end?

Kushi also addresses this question:

“There are two main reasons why this crisis is unlikely to produce a wave of foreclosures similar to the 2008 recession. First, the housing market is in a much stronger position compared with a decade ago. Accompanied by more rigorous lending standards, the household debt-to-income ratio is at a four-decade low and household equity near a three-decade high. Indeed, thus far, MBA data indicates that the majority of homeowners who took advantage of forbearance programs are either staying current on their mortgage or paying off the loan through a home sale or a refinance. Second, this service sector-driven recession is disproportionately impacting renters.”

There is one potential challenge

Today, the options available to homeowners will prevent a large spike in foreclosures. That’s good not just for those families impacted, but for the overall housing market. A recent study by Fannie Mae, however, reveals that many Americans are not aware of the options they have.

It’s imperative for potentially impacted families to better understand the mortgage relief programs available to them, for their personal housing situation and for the overall real estate market.

Bottom Line

If Americans fully understand their options and make good choices regarding those options, the current economic slowdown does not need to lead to mass foreclosures.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters

Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year

With the strength of the current housing market growing every day and more Americans returning to work, a faster-than-expected recovery in the housing sector is already well underway. Regardless, many are still asking the question: will we see a wave of foreclosures as a result of the current crisis? Thankfully, research shows the number of foreclosures is expected to be much lower than what this country experienced during the last recession. Here’s why.

According to Black Knight Inc., the number of those in active forbearance has been leveling-off over the past month (see graph below):Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The MarketBlack Knight Inc. also notes, of the original 4,208,000 families granted forbearance, only 2,588,000 of these homeowners got an extension. Many homeowners have once again started to pay their mortgages, paid off their homes, or never went delinquent on their payments in the first place. They may have applied for forbearance out of precaution, but never fully acted on it (see graph below):Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The MarketThe housing market, and homeowners, therefore, are in a much better position than many may think. Much of that has to do with the fact that today’s homeowners have more equity than most realize. According to John Burns Consulting, over 42% of homes are owned free and clear, meaning they are not tied to a mortgage. Of the remaining 58%, the average homeowner has $177,000 in equity. That number is keeping many homeowners afloat today and giving them options to avoid foreclosure.

While ATTOM Data Solutions indicates that there is a potential for the number of foreclosures to increase throughout the country, it’s important to understand why they won’t rock the housing market this time around:

“The United States faces a possible foreclosure surge over the coming months that could more than double the number of households threatened with eviction for not paying their mortgages.”

That number may sound massive, but it is actually much smaller than it seems at first glance. Today’s actual quarterly active foreclosure number is 74,860. That’s over 7.5x lower than the number of foreclosures the country saw at the peak of the housing crash in 2009. When looking at the graph below, it’s clear that even if the number of quarterly foreclosures today doubles, as ATTOM Data Solutions indicates is a possibility (not a given), they will only reach what historically-speaking is a normalized range, far below what up-ended the housing market roughly 10 years ago.Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The MarketEquity is growing, jobs are returning, and the economy is slowly recovering, so the perfect storm for a wave of foreclosures is not realistically in the housing market forecast. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American notes:

“Alone, economic hardship and a lack of equity are each necessary, but not sufficient to trigger a foreclosure. It is only when both conditions exist that a foreclosure becomes a likely outcome.”

While our hearts are with anyone who may end up in foreclosure as a result of this crisis, we do know that today’s homeowners have more options than they did 10 years ago. For some, it may mean selling their house and downsizing with that equity, which is a far better outcome than foreclosure.

Bottom Line

Homeowners today have many options to avoid foreclosure, and equity is surely helping to keep many afloat. Even if today’s rate of foreclosures doubles, it will still only hit a mark that is more in line with a historically normalized range, a very good sign for homeowners and the housing market.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters