CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate

A U.S. housing crisis could be looming on the horizon

February 10, 2021, 1:30 AM UTC

As the pandemic hit and jobs disappeared, millions of Americans suddenly found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments. Mortgage forbearance programs—allowing borrowers to postpone those bills without penalty—helped them stay afloat. But, barring a change in the rules, reality is set to roar back this April.

As of mid-January, over 2.7 million U.S. homeowners were still taking part in forbearance plans, according to mortgage data company Black Knight. Most of those plans have a 12-month cap, required by the CARES Act. And at the end of March, more than 600,000 of those people will once again be on the hook to make monthly payments.

“The various moratoriums which have kept foreclosure actions at bay over the past 10 months may be lulling us into a false sense of security about the scope of the post-forbearance problem we will need to confront come the end of March,” said Ben Graboske, president of Black Knight, in a statement.

Last year, nearly 3.6 million homeowners saw their mortgages become past due by 90 days or more. At the end of the year, the number had shrunk some, but still topped 2 million.

Things aren’t as bad as they could be. Borrowers won’t have to make a lump payment to reimburse lenders for missed mortgage payments if their loan is government backed. And some institutions could extend the terms of forbearance, owing to the current state of the pandemic. Others could negotiate lower interest rates or extend the length of the mortgage to lower monthly payments, if the borrower has a job.

But those who still can’t pay their mortgage could face foreclosure. Black Knight says there were 1.7 million more homeowners who were seriously delinquent in their payments in December versus a year prior.

“The number of borrowers 90-plus days past due has ballooned to 2.15 million, up 400% from one year ago,” a company statement said.

One upside? Housing prices are a lot stronger now than they were during the crisis of 2007, and the market is red-hot, so if homeowners are forced out of their homes, there’s an improved chance they will walk away with some cash in their pocket.