As unemployment surged during the early months of the pandemic, many homeowners found themselves taking advantage of forbearance programs offered by their mortgage servicer. At the end of February, roughly 2.5 million homeowners in the U.S. were still in forbearance plans. I sat down with Jaxzann Riggs, owner of The Mortgage Network in Denver, to learn about what options are available for those who are approaching the deadline for exiting forbearance.
For homeowners who may still be experiencing financial difficulties, extending their forbearance plan may be a possibility. However, an extension will not happen automatically. If you are in a forbearance plan that is close to expiring, you should reach out to the company that services your mortgage to see if you are eligible to extend forbearance.
Whether you qualify for a forbearance extension depends largely on your loan type and when you originally entered forbearance. If your loan is backed by Fannie Mae (FNMA) or Freddie Mac (FHLMC), you must have entered into your forbearance plan by February 28, 2021. If your loan is backed by the FHA, you must have entered forbearance by June 30, 2020. Once forbearance ends, the best course of action depends largely on your personal circumstance and loan type.
Borrowers with a FNMA or FHLMC loan can opt to pay the “past-due” amount in a lump sum and have their loan reinstated if they are in a financial position to do so. For those who have loans through Fannie and Freddie but are not able to pay off their forbearance amount immediately, there are several options. If you can afford a few hundred dollars on top of your typically monthly payment amount, you should speak with your servicer about entering a repayment plan for a specified time frame.
For borrowers who have found themselves in a different financial position than they were prior to the pandemic, putting several hundred additional dollars a month towards a mortgage may not be possible. In that case, you may be able to enter payment deferral, in which you resume your typical monthly payments and the past due amount is added on to the end of the loan. You can also talk to your loan servicer about a loan modification, in which the servicer agrees to lower the interest rate, forgive a portion of the principal, or otherwise adjust the loan. Note, however, that a loan modification will negatively impact your credit history.
Borrowers with an FHA loan have several options, the most straightforward being to simply resume monthly payments. The FHA considers the past due forbearance amount as an interest free second loan, meaning that the payments are essentially deferred until the end of your loan term. If you are not in a position to resume your full monthly payments, you should speak with your servicer about a loan modification in which your interest rate will be lowered and loan term extended.
For those with a VA loan, a repayment plan or loan modification may be the best course of action. Although the VA does allow deferment as an option, it does not require that its loan servicers provide it. For borrowers with a nonconforming loan (jumbo) there are no specific guidelines regarding forbearance. Some loan servicers may have chosen to offer forbearance, but they are not held to the same guidelines as other loan types.
Navigating your options as forbearance comes to an end can be tricky, but you do not have to face it alone. You may find it helpful to speak with a housing counselor before calling your loan servicer. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a list of approved counselors by state on their website.
And for any mortgage scenarios you may have, as always, I recommend calling Jaxzann Riggs of The Mortgage Network at 303-990-2992.