Record unemployment drives forbearances up

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The number of mortgages in coronavirus-related forbearance rose by 37 basis points between April 27 and May 3 as the unemployment rate kept growing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Nearly 4 million mortgages sat in forbearance plans as of May 3. About 7.91% of all outstanding loans went into forbearance, compared to 7.54% the week before.

The share of loans in forbearance at independent mortgage bank servicers saw a greater increase than the industry-wide average, growing to 7.54% from 7.13% over that period. At depositories, that share increased to 8.75% from 8.41%.

"With the calendar turning to May, the share of loans in forbearance increased, but the pace of the increase and incoming forbearance requests continued to slow," Mike Fratantoni, the MBA's senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release. "The dreadful April jobs report showed a decline of more than 20 million jobs, and a spike in the unemployment rate to the highest level since the Great Depression. It will not be surprising if the forbearance numbers continue to rise."

In April, the largest spike came in the first full week of the month. Some projections show the same could be in store for May.

Forbearance requests as a percentage of servicing portfolio volume declined 12 basis points for the week ended May 3 to 0.51 % from 0.63. But call center volume as a percentage of portfolio volume increased to 8.6% from 7.2% the previous week.

Ginnie Mae mortgages — Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service products — continued having the highest percentage of loans in forbearance by investor type, going up to 10.96% from 10.45%.

"As we anticipated, FHA and VA borrowers have been most impacted by the job losses thus far, with the share of Ginnie Mae loans in forbearance at almost 11%," Fratantoni said. "Although the pace of forbearance requests slowed this week, call volume picked up — which could be a sign that more borrowers are calling in to check their options now that May due dates have arrived."

The share of conforming mortgages, those purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in forbearance rose to 6.08% from 5.85%. The share of forbearance of private-label securities and portfolio loans — products which were not addressed by the coronavirus relief act — jumped to 8.88% from 8.3% one week prior.

The MBA's sample for this week's survey includes a total of 52 servicers broken down by 29 independent mortgage bankers, 21 depositories, plus two subservicers. By unit count, the respondents represented nearly 77%, or 38.3 million, of the outstanding first-lien mortgages.

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