Posted on May 13th, 2020
The massive numbers taking part can be attributed to the widespread fallout from the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19), and also the ease at which a homeowner can request assistance, with not much more than a letter or simple request to their loan servicer without proof.
It’s expected that many more borrowers will request mortgage forbearance in the month of May and beyond, as evidenced by a recent survey from Bankrate.
Need Help, But Not Yet Asking for It
Apparently, many Americans are concerned about making mortgage payments in light of possible job losses or income curtailments, but most haven’t reached out for help yet.
Some 70% of Millennials said they were concerned about their ability to make mortgage payments over the next three months, but only 60% said they have contacted their lender.
Meanwhile, 56% of Gen Xers are concerned, but a mere 29% have reached out to their lender or loan servicer.
It’s even worse for Baby Boomers, with 43% concerned, and only 17% asking for help.
As to why, some said they didn’t know it was an option, or simply haven’t gotten around to it, or are waiting for lenders to reach out to them (good luck!)
Others cited unspecified reasons or said they came up with their own solution.
For me, this proves that homeowners are reticent to ask for help, possibly because they think it’ll count against them somehow, even though mortgage forbearance isn’t supposed to harm credit scores or result in delinquencies.
Mortgage Lenders Will Know You Requested Forbearance
- Lenders told not to report loans in forbearance as delinquent to credit bureaus
- But loan servicers and lenders are still flagging accounts on credit reports
- Will these borrowers be considered “late” once the forbearance ends?
- Could presence of forbearance on credit reports prevent borrowers from getting another mortgage?
My initial thoughts are it shouldn’t count against you, but that’s not always how it works, especially if a private company plays by its own rules.
After housing blew up a decade ago, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) were rolled out to help struggling homeowners.
While these initiatives provided relatively immediate relief to homeowners, they also resulted in various waiting periods to get subsequent mortgages.
So a homeowner who opted to receive assistance may have had to wait a year or two to get another mortgage.
These waiting periods were even longer (up to four years) if the borrower received a principal reduction that resulted in them owing less than originally agreed.
But shorter if there were extenuating circumstances, of which there will be for just about everyone this time around.
The question is will they use the past as a model for the future? Things were a bit different back then because there was perhaps some borrower fault, and basically none today.
While you could argue that all homeowners should have reserves saved up for moments like these, they often aren’t required by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the VA, or the FHA.
So you can’t really blame a homeowner impacted by an unforeseen virus to continue making mortgage payments. Nor can you blame them for accepting the assistance you’re offering.
In other words, I can’t see Fannie, Freddie, the FHA, or the VA disallowing a mortgage refinance or a new purchase loan if they extended the forbearance in the first place.
In the case of a refinance, mortgage lenders (or the investors) would presumably receive the missed payment amounts via the payoff to make them whole.
Will Mortgage Forbearance Count Against You?
- Just because your mortgage isn’t late doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you
- Lenders may impose waiting periods for borrowers post-forbearance
- They will likely scrutinize loan files if you requested forbearance in the past
- It will be key to show them the event is behind you if you want another mortgage
Sure, you’re not technically behind on the mortgage, per the CARES Act and other forbearance programs, but lenders will know that you entered into a mortgage forbearance plan. It’ll be noted on your credit report.
While it might not be a formal delinquency or late mortgage payment, it’ll be visible to creditors when you apply for a new credit card, auto loan, or a mortgage.
It’s a notable event from a credit perspective, and thus will be shared, though it shouldn’t officially count against you.
In other words, its presence doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to refinance or get another mortgage on a different property, especially if it wasn’t your fault.
However, you’re going to have to qualify for the mortgage, like you usually would in normal times.
That might be the dividing line, not so much a waiting period or a flat-out denial just because you took advantage of widespread mortgage forbearance.
Regardless, it’ll be very important to stay current on mortgage payments post-forbearance. The same goes for any other accounts that show up on your credit report.
An underwriter will dig into your financials to determine this to ensure it’s an isolated incident and really behind you.
Ultimately, it might hinge on the borrower showing that they are back on their feet and that it was a blip related to COVID-19 and not due to their own personal financial missteps or issues.
Like those loan mods in the past, it’ll be crucial that the borrower make on-time payments once forbearance ends to ensure they qualify for a new mortgage without further delays.
Those who still need assistance post-forbearance, via a loan modification or further forbearance, will likely have trouble qualifying for another mortgage.
But that’s pretty obvious – if you can’t pay your existing home loan, why would a lender give you another one?
Read more: Will home prices go up or down due to COVID-19?