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Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next

July 14, 2020

mortgage forbearance

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Millions of Americans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments because of COVID-19 have received relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But mortgage forbearance is only temporary, and set to expire soon, leaving many homeowners who are still struggling perplexed on what to do next.

Enacted in March, the CARES Act initially granted a 180-day forbearance, or pause in payments, to homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government or a government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Furthermore, some private lenders also granted mortgage forbearance of 90 days or more to financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 8.39% of loans were in forbearance as of June 28, representing an estimated 4.2 million homeowners nationwide.

So what are affected homeowners to do when the forbearance goes away? You have options, so it’s well worth contacting your lender to explore what’s best for you.

“If you know you’re going to be unable to meet the terms of your forbearance agreement at its maturity, you should call your loan servicer immediately and see what options they may be able to offer to you,” says Abel Carrasco, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL.

Exactly what’s available depends on the fine print in the terms of your mortgage forbearance agreement. Here’s an overview of some possible avenues to explore if you still can’t pay your mortgage after the forbearance period ends.

Extend your mortgage forbearance

One simple option is to contact your lender to request an extension.

Homeowners granted forbearance under the CARES Act can request a 180-day extension, giving them a total of 360 days of forbearance, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The key is to contact your lender well before your forbearance expires. If you let it expire without an extension, your lender could impose penalties.

“If you just stop making regular, scheduled payments, you could have a late mortgage payment on your credit,” warns Carrasco. “That could severely impact refinancing or purchasing another property in the immediate future and potentially subject you to foreclosure.”

Keep in mind, though, a forbearance simply delays payments, meaning they’ll still need to be made in the future. It doesn’t mean payments are forgiven.

Refinance to lower your mortgage payment

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, hovering around 3%. So if you can swing it, this may be a great time to refinance your home, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

Refinancing could come with some hefty fees, however, ranging from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. But it could be worth it.

A lower interest rate will likely lower your monthly payment and save you thousands over the life of your mortgage. Dropping your interest rate from 4.125% to 3% could save more than $40,000 over 30 years, for example, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Lenders have tightened standards, though, so you will need to show that you are a good candidate for refinancing,” Kapfidze says. You’ll need a good credit score of 620 or higher.

As long as you’ve kept up your end of the forbearance terms, having a mortgage forbearance shouldn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to refinance or qualify for another mortgage.

Ask for a loan modification

Many lenders are offering an assortment of programs to help homeowners under hardship because of the pandemic, says Christopher Sailus, vice president and mortgage product manager at WaFd Bank.

“Lenders quickly recognized the severity of the economic situation due to the pandemic, and put programs into place to defer payments or help reduce them,” he says.

A loan modification is one such option. This enables homeowners at risk of default to change the terms of their original mortgage—such as payment amount, interest rate, or length of the loan—to reduce monthly payments and clear up any delinquencies.

Loan modifications may affect your credit score, but not as much as a foreclosure. Some lenders charge fees for loan modifications, but others, like WaFd, provide them at no cost.

Put your home on the market

It may seem like a strange time to sell your home, with COVID-19 cases growing, unemployment rising, and the economy on shaky ground. But, it’s actually a great time to sell a house.

Pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index, the largest month-over-month growth since the index began in 2001.

Home inventory remains low, and buyer demand is up with many hoping to jump on the low interest rates. Prices are up, too. The national median home price increased 7.7% in the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600, according to NAR.

So if you can no longer afford your home and have plenty of equity built up, listing your home may be a smart move. (Home equity is the market value of your home minus how much you still owe on your mortgage.)

Consider foreclosure as a last resort

Foreclosure may be the only option for many homeowners, especially if you fall too behind on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to sell or refinance. In May, more than 7% of mortgages were delinquent, a 20% increase from April, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

“When to begin a foreclosure process will vary from lender to lender and client to client,” Sailus says. “Current and future state and federal legislation, statutes, or regulations will impact the process, as will the individual homeowner’s situation and their ability to repay.”

Foreclosures won’t begin until after a forbearance period ends, he adds.

The CARES Act prohibited lenders from foreclosing on mortgages backed by the government or government-sponsored enterprise until at least Aug. 31. Several states, including California and Connecticut, also issued temporary foreclosure moratoriums and stays.

Once these grace periods (and forbearance timelines) end, and homeowners miss payments, they could face foreclosure, Carrasco says. When a loan is flagged as being in foreclosure, the balance is due and legal fees accumulate, requiring homeowners to pay off the loan (usually by selling) and vacating the property.

“Absent participation in an agreed-upon forbearance, deferment, repayment plan, or loan modification, loan servicers historically may begin the foreclosure process after as few as three months of missed mortgage payments,” he explains. “This is unfortunately often the point of no return.”

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6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19

May 29, 2020

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Getting a mortgage, paying your mortgage, refinancing your mortgage: These are all major undertakings, but during a pandemic, all of it becomes more complicated. Sometimes a lot more complicated.

But make no mistake, home buyers are still taking out and paying down mortgages during the current global health crisis. There have, in fact, been some silver linings amid the economic uncertainty—hello, record-low interest rates—but also plenty of changes to keep up with. Mortgage lending looks much different now than at the start of the year.

Whether you’re applying for a new mortgage, struggling to pay your current mortgage, or curious about refinancing, here’s what mortgage lenders from around the country want you to know.

1. Rates have dropped, but getting a mortgage has gotten more complicated

First, the good news about mortgage interest rates: “Rates have been very low in recent weeks, and have come back down to their absolute lowest levels in a long time,” says Yuri Umanski, senior mortgage consultant at Premia Relocation Mortgage in Troy, MI.

That means this could be a great time to take out a mortgage and lock in a low rate. But getting a mortgage is more difficult during a pandemic.

“Across the industry, underwriting a mortgage has become an even more complex process,” says Steve Kaminski, head of U.S. residential lending at TD Bank. “Many of the third-party partners that lenders rely on—county offices, appraisal firms, and title companies—have closed or taken steps to mitigate their exposure to COVID-19.”

Even if you can file your mortgage application online, Kaminski says many steps in the process traditionally happen in person, like getting notarization, conducting a home appraisal, and signing closing documents.

As social distancing makes these steps more difficult, you might have to settle for a “drive-by appraisal” instead of a thorough, more traditional appraisal inside the home.

“And curbside closings with masks and gloves started to pop up all over the country,” Umanski adds.

2. Be ready to prove (many times) that you can pay a mortgage

If you’ve lost your job or been furloughed, you might not be able to buy your dream house (or any house) right now.

“Whether you are buying a home or refinancing your current mortgage, you must be employed and on the job,” says Tim Ross, CEO of Ross Mortgage Corp. in Troy, MI. “If someone has a loan in process and becomes unemployed, their mortgage closing would have to wait until they have returned to work and received their first paycheck.”

Lenders are also taking extra steps to verify each borrower’s employment status, which means more red tape before you can get a loan.

Normally, lenders run two or three employment verifications before approving a new loan or refinancing, but “I am now seeing employment verification needed seven to 10 times—sometimes even every three days,” says Tiffany Wolf, regional director and senior loan officer at Cabrillo Mortgage in Palm Springs, CA. “Today’s borrowers need to be patient and readily available with additional documents during this difficult and uncharted time in history.”

3. Your credit score might not make the cut anymore

Economic uncertainty means lenders are just as nervous as borrowers, and some lenders are raising their requirements for borrowers’ credit scores.

“Many lenders who were previously able to approve FHA loans with credit scores as low as 580 are now requiring at least a 620 score to qualify,” says Randall Yates, founder and CEO of The Lenders Network.

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new home today, now is a good time to work on improving your credit score if you plan to buy in the future.

“These changes are temporary, but I would expect them to stay in place until the entire country is opened back up and the unemployment numbers drop considerably,” Yates says.

4. Forbearance isn’t forgiveness—you’ll eventually need to pay up

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act requires loan servicers to provide forbearance (aka deferment) to homeowners with federally backed mortgages. That means if you’ve lost your job and are struggling to make your mortgage payments, you could go months without owing a payment. But forbearance isn’t a given, and it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

“The CARES Act is not designed to create a freedom from the obligation, and the forbearance is not forgiveness,” Ross says. “Missed payments will have to be made up.”

You’ll still be on the hook for the payments you missed after your forbearance period ends, so if you can afford to keep paying your mortgage now, you should.

To determine if you’re eligible for forbearance, call your loan servicer—don’t just stop making payments.

If your deferment period is ending and you’re still unable to make payments, you can request delaying payments for additional months, says Mark O’ Donovan, CEO of Chase Home Lending at JPMorgan Chase.

After you resume making your payments, you may be able to defer your missed payments to the end of your mortgage, O’Donovan says. Check with your loan servicer to be sure.

5. Don’t be too fast to refinance

Current homeowners might be eager to refinance and score a lower interest rate. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the best move for everyone.

“Homeowners should consider how long they expect to reside in their home,” Kaminski says. “They should also account for closing costs such as appraisal and title insurance policy fees, which vary by lender and market.”

If you plan to stay in your house for only the next two years, for example, refinancing might not be worth it—hefty closing costs could offset the savings you would gain from a lower interest rate.

“It’s also important to remember that refinancing is essentially underwriting a brand-new mortgage, so lenders will conduct income verification and may require the similar documentation as the first time around,” Kaminski adds.

6. Now could be a good time to take out a home equity loan

Right now, homeowners can also score low rates on a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, to finance major home improvements like a new roof or addition.

“This may be a great time to take out a home equity line to consolidate debt,” Umanski says. “This process will help reduce the total obligations on a monthly basis and allow for the balance to be refinanced into a much lower rate.”

Just be careful not to overimprove your home at a time when the economy and the housing market are both in flux.

The post 6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

What Happens If I Stop Paying My Mortgage?

May 6, 2020

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During the current financial crisis, you may ponder the idea of simply stopping payment on your mortgage. It is an option that some may want to consider in difficult times, but it is a bad decision all the way around.

The reason: It will affect your credit for years to come and is likely to result in the loss of your home. As a topper, the bank doesn’t really want your house. Lenders are willing to help and would rather not foreclose.

So don’t adopt the tactic of pooh-poohing your payment and hoping for the best.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, almost 7% of all mortgage loans are currently in forbearance as of April 19. That’s up from just under 6% the week before. To give some perspective, at the beginning of March, the number was just 0.25%.

While some mortgage holders are asking for help, the temptation not to pay is real. Let’s reiterate: It is a bad idea.

What happens if I don’t pay my mortgage?

If you don’t pay your mortgage, it will set you on the path to foreclosure, which means losing your house.

A mortgage is a legal agreement in which you agree to pay a certain amount to a lender for a certain number of years. Failing to pay violates that agreement.

Right now, federal (and some state) foreclosure proceedings are paused, but they will resume as soon as the economy begins to open up again. In some states, that may be imminent. The idea behind the pause was to ensure that people made it through the shelter-in-place orders with a place to shelter.

“This is not a moratorium that [lenders] will never foreclose again,” says Mary Bell Carlson, an accredited financial counselor known as Chief Financial Mom.

“You need to take this seriously and not just stop paying. Because if you stop paying and it adds up, you’re going to be first on the list to foreclose on when the economy reopens.”

Consequences of missing payments

Mortgage payments are due the first of each month and are considered late after the 15th of the month. That’s when late fees, penalties, and correspondence from the loan servicer begin.

“First off, you’ll get a letter in the mail from your servicer which says you owe x amount and it must be paid by this date,” Carlson says. The letters will outline any penalties and late fees and will often include an offer of help.

“The bank is not in the business of owning homes—that’s not what they want to do,” she says. “They’re not looking to take over your house.”

She adds that lenders want to work out solutions to keep you in your house and avoid lengthy foreclosure proceedings.

Meanwhile, be wary if you receive a call or an email from someone saying they’re your lender and you haven’t paid. It’s probably a scam, says Carlson. Your lender will send notifications via the postal service.

Will not paying my mortgage damage my credit score?

Your loan will go into default after 30 days of nonpayment. The mortgage servicer will probably file a notice of default with your local government and report the nonpayment to the credit bureaus, which will negatively impact your credit score.

“The credit is the first thing that gets hit. Your credit will take a nosedive if you stop paying your mortgage,” Carlson says.

“If you just close your eyes and stop paying, your credit is going to dissipate, and it takes years for those things to fall off.”

A low credit score may impact your future ability to get a mortgage or to rent.

“No one is going to want to rent to somebody who has just declared bankruptcy or has been foreclosed on, because that’s going to be a huge red flag,” Carlson warns.

As you continue to miss payments, penalties, interest, and correspondence from lenders will accumulate. Eventually, you’ll get a notification that the foreclosure process is underway.

How long will it be before foreclosure?

The foreclosure process is different in each state, so the process and its length may vary. Carlson says the process often begins in earnest after about six months of nonpayment.

She added that from the time of the first missed payment to about the six-month mark, lenders will work on solutions to avoid foreclosure. But if they don’t hear from you then, be prepared to lose your home.

“At the six-month point, they say, ‘OK, all options are off the table at this point. You’re unwilling to work with us, we’re going to start foreclosure,’” says Carlson.

When this happens, the entire loan becomes due and repayment plans are no longer an option.

The timeframe varies by state, but sometimes as quickly as six months after the first missed payment, a lender can list the home for sale or hold an auction. A homeowner will have to vacate.

The current economic climate is delaying foreclosures, but proceedings will resume once states begin to lift suspension orders.

What do I do if I’m struggling to pay my mortgage?

If you’re having difficulty making mortgage payments, there are options. Some will help keep you in your house, while others will protect some of your credit. But don’t bury your head in the sand and simply stop paying.

“Communicating with your lender is the key,” Carlson advises. “So if you cannot pay, the communication methods need to—and must be—open to communicate that to your lender and discuss the options you have.”

Here are a few of the common options if you want to stay in your home:

  • Forbearance: A lender allows a borrower to pause payments for a period of temporary hardship, sometimes waiving late fees or penalties. Interest will often still accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, the missed payments become due. Forbearance is a good option if the financial situation is a short-term setback.
  • Loan modification: Changing the terms of the loan and payments is possible. Often, this involves a divorce, job change, or an unexpected increase in expenses. Loan modifications are a tactic to deploy if you want to stay in your home, but can no longer afford the current payments.
  • Repayment plan: If you are a few payments behind and think you can catch up, one option might be a repayment plan allowing you to make a lesser payment temporarily, until your finances are back on track.

 

Some alternatives if you don’t want to stay in your home and would rather walk away:

  • Deed-in-lieu: In exchange for partial or total debt forgiveness, you voluntarily give ownership of the home back to the lender. This is usually when foreclosure is imminent, and you can no longer afford the payments and do not want to sell the property yourself.
  • Short sale: If you want to sell the home yourself and owe more than the home is worth, you could ask your lender if you could do a short sale. The property usually sells for less than the balance of the mortgage.

These options may hurt your credit, but not as badly as a foreclosure.

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Are You a Homeowner Seeking Forbearance on Your Mortgage? Watch Out for These Red Flags

April 21, 2020

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Homeowners are asking for breaks on their mortgage payments in droves, as millions of Americans face the prospect of unemployment or reduced income because of the coronanvirus pandemic. But requesting forbearance on your mortgage isn’t foolproof.

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package requires servicers to provide forbearance — a temporary postponement of payments — to any homeowner with a federally-backed mortgage. Americans with other mortgages may also be able to receive forbearance at their servicers’ discretion.

Requests for forbearance have poured in. Forbearance requests grew by 1,896% between March 16 and March 30, according to a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group that represents the mortgage industry. And before that, forbearance requests had increased some 1,270% between March 2 and March 16.

As consumers have rushed to call their servicer in search of assistance, call centers have been overwhelmed, leading to longer wait times to speak with a representative.

“If you are eligible for this and you need the help, take full advantage of the program,” said Rick Sharga, a mortgage industry veteran and founder of CJ Patrick Company, a real-estate consulting firm. “But similarly, if you don’t need the help, and if you can pay your mortgage, don’t try and game the system and make it harder for people who really do need the benefits to access.”

For those who have yet to get a forbearance agreement in place, here’s what you need to know:

‘Forbearance is not forgiveness’

To be clear, mortgage borrowers will still need to pay off their loan eventually if they receive forbearance.

“Forbearance is not forgiveness,” said Karan Kaul, a research associate at the Urban Institute, a left-of-center nonprofit policy group. “You still owe the money that you were paying, it’s just that there’s a temporary pause on making your monthly payments.”

‘Forbearance is not forgiveness. You still owe the money that you were paying, it’s just that there’s a temporary pause on making your monthly payments.’

Karan Kaul, a research associate at the Urban Institute

Under a forbearance agreement, a borrower can pause payments entirely or make reduced payments on their mortgage. Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages are eligible for up to 180 days of forbearance initially under the CARES Act. At that point, if they’re still facing financial difficulty, they can request an extension of up to another 180 days of forbearance.

The provisions in the stimulus package stipulate that during the forbearance period, mortgage servicers cannot make negative reports about the borrower in question to credit bureaus, including the three main ones, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Borrowers also will not owe any late fees or penalties if they are granted forbearance.

You need to know who your servicer is

Struggling homeowners won’t automatically receive forbearance. You need to request it from your servicer.

Mortgage servicers are the companies who receive your monthly payments. A homeowner’s mortgage servicer isn’t necessarily the same as their lender — many lenders sell the servicing rights for mortgages to other companies.

The first step to figure out who your servicer is would be to check your mortgage statement. If for some reason the information isn’t there, you can look it up by searching the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems website. Alternatively, you can check with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, if your loan is backed by one of them.

How do you know if you qualify?

To qualify for forbearance, a borrower must have a mortgage backed by one of the following federal agencies:

• Fannie Mae

• Freddie Mac

• The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

• The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Borrowers should avoid calling their servicers to find out if they’re eligible, Sharga said.

“Find out what you can before you try and reach your mortgage servicer, because they are overwhelmed with call volume right now,” Sharga said.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both have websites where you can check whether your loan is backed by one of them. You can access those websites here and here. Almost half of all mortgages in the U.S. are backed by Fannie and Freddie.

To find out if your loan is backed by the FHA, check the original closing documents or your most recent mortgage statement. If you pay for FHA Insurance, then that agency is backing your loan. Alternatively, your closing documents should include a HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) statement and a 13-digit HUD number.

Because the VA and USDA loan programs target specific borrowers, those borrowers should already know if they have loans backed by those agencies. In the event you are still unsure, you can call your servicer.

Those who aren’t eligible aren’t necessarily out of luck, though. Servicers for non-federally-backed mortgages may still be willing to provide forbearance to borrowers facing financial trouble right now.

Be prepared to answer some questions

You don’t need to provide documentation to prove your financial hardship at this time, but your servicer may have some questions to determine how much assistance they will offer you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests being prepared to answer the following:

• Why you can’t make your payments?

• Is the problem you are facing temporary or permanent?

• What is the current state of your income, expenses and other assets, including money in the bank?

• Are you a service member with permanent change of station orders?

“Consumers should indicate they have had a hardship due to COVID-19 and ask about their forbearance options with the company servicing the mortgage loan,” said Chris Diamond, director of financial products at online mortgage lender Better.com. “They should ask how long of a forbearance they can qualify for as well as what their options are at the end of that forbearance period.”

Get your forbearance agreement in writing

The CFPB stresses that any borrower who has received a reprieve on mortgage payments should get their agreement in writing.

“Once you’re able to secure forbearance or another mortgage relief option, ask your servicer to provide written documentation that confirms the details of your agreement and that you’re clear on what the terms are,” the agency said on its website.

Having the agreement in writing will protect you if there are errors in your mortgage statement or your credit report.

Watch out for balloon payments

After a borrower has secured a forbearance agreement from their servicer, they should discuss repayment options.

“You don’t want a surprise like finding out that six months of deferred loan payments are all due immediately upon the end of the forbearance,” Sharga said. “Most people simply won’t have six months’ worth of mortgage payments available.”

Some borrowers have expressed concerns after being offered a balloon payment option like the one Sharga described. With a balloon payment, a borrower would pay back the entire amount owed for the forbearance period at once.

While a lender may offer a balloon payment as an option, there is no mandate that a borrower must repay in this manner, Kaul said.

Homeowners can and should aim to negotiate the best possible repayment options for them. “All those terms are negotiable,” Sharga said. “Be diligent, be steadfast and try and stand your ground.”

Beyond a balloon payment, servicers may offer to extend the term of the mortgage and tack on the missed payments at the end, so a 30-year mortgage would be extended by 4 months if that’s how much forbearance a borrower received.

There is no mandate that a borrower must repay what they owe in missed payments in one balloon payment after forbearance.

Alternatively, a borrower may also be offered the option to amortize the balance they owe over the life of the loan. This means they would repay a portion of the balance owed in addition to their usual monthly payments.

A borrower can request information on who owns their mortgage note, since the owner might be able to provide more relief options. Servicers must respond to these requests within 10 business days, said Andrea Bopp Stark, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

“If the servicer does not respond, the borrower should send another letter and seek legal assistance,” Bopp Stark said. “The servicer could be held liable for actual damages and up to $2,000 statutory damages for a failure to respond.”

If you’re still in financial trouble after forbearance, consider a loan modification

It’s too soon to tell whether 12 months of forbearance will be enough assistance for those who are among the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in recent weeks.

“The most beneficial option if the borrower might be out of work or impacted for an extended period is to request to modify the loan at the end of forbearance,” Diamond said.

Unlike forbearance, a loan modification involves a permanent change to the details of the mortgage. This can include adjusting the interest rate, extending the duration of the loan or deferring the amount owed until the end of the loan as a separate lien.

A servicer will determine whether or not a borrower qualifies for the modification.

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