We live in unprecedented times, impacting not just the mortgage industry, but entire humanity.
We are tied to our homes, with limited mobility, and no certainty around when that will change.
Survival and safety is key at the moment, with all other aspects of our lives taking a backseat. From our jobs to leisure activity, from social gatherings to essential ones. Everything has just come to a standstill.
With jobs at risk and not a lot of certainty about when all of this is going to return to normal, a lot of people are concerned about their finances. Especially when many among us are heavily dependent on credit to live our lives: mortgages, auto loans, education loans, personal loans, credit card loans – you name it.
That’s the story of many consumers worried about job losses: “What options are available to me? What can ease some of the financial distress related to the loan payments I’ll still have to make?”
Are there options to help me with the mortgage payment?
Mortgage payment is one of the biggest monthly expenses most families have. And now with people losing jobs, affording monthly mortgage payments can become a significant barrier to cross for many.
In these trying times, the Federal Government is doing a lot to help the citizens. There are plenty of programs that are being offered by different agencies of the government. But there are also caveats associated with them. Our motive here is to not only help inform you about your options, but also caution you about the potential downsides of using one of those options.
We list the prominent COVID-19 associated mortgage relief programs and highlight the pros and cons of each.
1. Forbearance Program – The payment relief program
Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. And that’s exactly what the government and its agencies are trying to do. One such program by the FHFA (Federal Housing and Finance Agency) is the “Forbearance program”. Under this program, if you loan is federally-backed, you can:
- Contact your mortgage servicer and request a reduction (or suspension) of mortgage payments for six months. This can be extended by another six months, if necessary for up to 12 months .
- Request for a late fee relief during the forbearance period.
- While this gives you temporary relief until things stabilize and return to normal, it also offers a repayment plan to help you catch up to your scheduled payments gradually, and in some cases, offers permanent loan modification.
A few words of caution:
- People can benefit significantly from this program. But there is a catch. Remember that this program only allows you to delay your payments. Your interest will accrue as usual. You will have to catch up to all your payments eventually. Either by extending the term of the loan, or by making higher monthly payments along the way. So please use it only if you absolutely have no other way.
- Do not stop making your payments without having worked out some kind of a plan with your loan servicer. You will be considered delinquent on your payments if you do so.
- Watch out for mortgage scams. Please contact your loan servicer yourself and do not reply to emails or calls. There are a lot of hoax emails and phone calls, claiming to help you.
2. Freddie Mac COVID-19 Response
Freddie Mac is assisting mortgage borrowers by:
- Providing mortgage forbearance for up to 12 months.
- Waiving assessments of penalties and late fees.
- Halting all foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers living in Freddie Mac-owned homes until at least May 17, 2020,
- Suspending reporting to credit bureaus of delinquency related to forbearance,
- Offering loan modification options that lower payments or keep payments the same after the forbearance period.
- Make your mortgage payment if you can.
- Don’t stop paying without informing your loan servicer.
- Beware of scams.
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3. Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium
An eviction and foreclosure moratorium went into effect on March 18 for 60 days. During that time,
- Will not be charged late fees.
- Will not be evicted from their homes.
This one really does not have a downside to it. This one is for your information, mainly to prevent abuse from lenders and services.