600,000 May Struggle as Mortgage Relief Nears End

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

600,000

That’s the number of mortgage borrowers—most of whom are presumed to be seriously behind on their payments—who only have two months left on their forbearance plans.

Unless the federal government extends the reprieve on mortgage payments, forbearance plans initiated at the outset of the pandemic will hit their year-long expiration date at the end of March.

Black Knight, a mortgage data company, estimates 24% of the 2.5 million active forbearance plans expected by that point will be expiring, and that the vast majority of these borrowers will be seriously delinquent—with payments 90 or more days overdue. While they’re not penalized for being overdue during forbearance, the numbers underscore how many households could have difficulty resuming payments once the protections are over.

The CARES Act pandemic relief bill created two relief measures for homeowners with mortgages backed by the government, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac: One allows for borrowers suffering a financial hardship to apply for 180 days of relief from their mortgage, extendable to 360 days. Another forbids foreclosures on these loans until the beginning of March or April, depending on the type of loan.

The relief measures helped make 2020 the mildest year for foreclosures on record. But economists note they’ve only delayed the fallout, and once the protections expire, the country could face a wave of foreclosures. These days only 12% of borrowers in forbearance continue to make payments, down from about half earlier in the pandemic, Black Knight said.