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Unemployment Could Lead to Mortgage Forbearance Surge

With unemployment hitting record levels, mortgage forbearance are likely to surge, according to a new white paper from Black Knight. According to the paper, using Great Recession mortgage performance as a point of comparison, Black Knight estimates that an unemployment rate of 15%, as projected by Goldman Sachs for Q2 2020, could result in 3.5 million new mortgage delinquencies.

“Trying to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on mortgage performance is as much an art right now as a science,” said Black Knight Data & Analytics President Ben Graboske. “The fact is that there is no true point of comparison in the nation’s recent history for analysts to model against. That said, there are some historical clues that can help shed light. In the Great Recession, for example, the number of past-due mortgages tripled over four years, increasing by more than 5.5 million, as the unemployment rate rose relatively sharply from 4.5% in 2006 to 10% by the end of 2009. Today, we’ve seen more than 10 million people file for unemployment since the coronavirus was labeled a pandemic on March 11, which should put the unemployment rate at roughly 9.5%. Using the Great Recession as a point of comparison, Black Knight’s AFT modeling team looked at potential delinquencies under different unemployment scenarios, and at 10%, we could expect 2 million new mortgage delinquencies. That would put the total at 4 million delinquencies with a national non-current rate of 7.5%."

According to Black Knight, forbearance programs offered by various mortgage servicers and dictated by FHFA, HUD and the newly signed CARES Act may help alleviate some of the financial stress on borrowers. Pointing to the effectiveness of forbearance programs in a time of crisis, of the more than 140,000 seriously delinquent mortgages caused by the 2017 hurricane season, just 1% of homes were lost to foreclosure or short sale two years after the storms, compared to 15% of seriously delinquent mortgages in non-hurricane-affected areas.

"Although, should financial disruptions become more long-term, additional assistance programs may become necessary," Graboske adds, "Of course, a surge of forbearance requests brings its own challenges, both operational and financial."

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Harding University, he has covered numerous topics across the real estate and default servicing industries. Additionally, he has written B2B marketing copy for Dallas-based companies such as AT&T. An East Texas Native, he also works part-time as a photographer.
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