Record unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to the largest one-month increase in mortgage delinquencies ever recorded. The number of borrowers who stopped paying their home loans spiked by 1.6 million last month, new data show.
Not even during the Great Recession did delinquencies rise this fast. During that time, it took 18 months before there was a single-month increase as large.
The national delinquency rate soared to 6.45 percent in April, up from 3.06 percent in March and three times the previous single-month record set in 2008, according to data released this week by Black Knight, a real estate data and analytics company. The 3.6 million borrowers who are now past due is the most since 2015.
The data represents homeowners who didn’t make a mortgage payment in April, including those who are in forbearance plans. It comes from the company’s loan-level database representing a majority of the national mortgage market.
You only need to look at the job market to understand why so many people aren’t paying their mortgages these days. The U.S. economy shed 20 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate soared to its highest level since the Great Depression as many businesses nationwide shuttered. The impact has been swift and severe: An additional 2.4 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, the Labor Department announced, pushing the nation’s nine-week total past 38 million.
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Nobody’s bailing out Connecticut landlord Maribeth Shields,
More than half of the tenants in the 27 low-income apartments she owns in the city of West Haven and its vicinity aren’t paying and there’s nothing she can do about it. The state banned evictions until July and allowed tenants hurt by the pandemic to defer with no penalty.
But Shields can’t pay, either. Her profit last year came to only $24,000, and now she’s behind on $1.2 million in mortgages. Like millions of other U.S. landlords, who owe lenders more than $1 trillion combined, her fate is tied to renters now urgently focused on their own self-preservation.
To avert a damaging wave of foreclosures like the one that swept the country more than a decade ago, Congress included a provision in the $2.2 trillion rescue package it approved in March that allows homeowners with government-backed mortgages to defer payments for up to a year. But Washington stopped short of offering renters comparable relief on the assumption that those in distress would likely qualify for the $1,200 checks the Treasury began mailing out in April, as well as beefed-up unemployment benefits.
The Federal Reserve’s emergency rescue of the U.S. mortgage market should have set off celebration among lenders trying to keep up with demand from borrowers. Instead, executives at Quicken Loans got a hefty margin call.
That was just a fraction of the pain the Fed unintentionally inflicted on lenders in mid-March when it announced plans to buy a massive amount of mortgage securities. The move, meant to steady the market, caught many lenders by surprise and tipped their routine hedges deep into the red.
It’s added to strains throughout the industry that have left the gap between mortgage rates and benchmark Treasuries the widest since 2009. Back then, bank failures and concerns about the housing market kept home loans from becoming cheaper for borrowers. Now, it’s obscure parts of the financial world that are holding back efforts to shave thousands of dollars from many Americans’ biggest expenses — their mortgages.
“The Fed came in trying to help, but they overshot,” said Phil Rasori, chief operating officer of Mortgage Capital Trading Inc., which says it handles hedging for about 20% of the mortgage market. He estimates margin calls initially drained as much as $5 billion from lenders before the Fed eased off, posing “an existential threat” to some nonbanks that operate on thin cash cushions, selling off loans as soon as they’re made.
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