As unemployment surges and more Americans struggle to make ends meet, more homeowners are applying for the government's mortgage forbearance program under the recently passed coronavirus relief plan.
The CARES Act allows borrowers with loans backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae to miss up to a year's worth of monthly payments, which they are then required to remit at a later date or in a payment plan over time.
Requests for forbearance jumped 78% for the week ended April 5 compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The number of borrowers now in forbearance topped 2 million; the share of total loans in servicing portfolios in forbearance rose from 2.73% to 3.74% of total bank and nonbank servicing portfolios.
Mortgages backed by Ginnie Mae showed the largest weekly growth and had the biggest share of forbearances at 5.89% of total servicing portfolios. Ginnie Mae backs loans from the FHA and VA, which have low to no down payment options and are made to borrowers with generally lower credit scores.
"The nationwide shutdown of the economy to slow the spread of COVID-19 continues to create hardships for millions of households, and more are contacting their servicers for relief in accordance with the forbearance provisions under the CARES Act," said Mike Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist. "With mitigation efforts seemingly in place for at least several more weeks, job losses will continue and the number of borrowers asking for forbearance will likely to continue to rise at a rapid pace."
For loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which represent just over half the overall mortgage market, the share of loans in forbearance went from 1.69% of total servicing volume to 2.44%.
There is one bright note, a decline in hold times at call centers, "which indicates the mortgage industry is adapting to the current environment by adding or reallocating staff and increasingly utilizing its websites to help borrowers," added Fratantoni.