The number of mortgages in active forbearance declined slightly once again this week, continuing the trend of very slow improvement seen in recent weeks. Total active forbearance plans are now down 1.5% from last month. This gradual rate of improvement sets the stage for a large number of plans to still be in active status when the first wave of forbearances begins to expire at the end of March.
This week’s decline was largely driven by a drop in the number of active forbearance plans among loans held in private label securities or bank portfolios. This decrease of 13,000 plans was countered by an increase of 4,000 plans among FHA/VA loans. GSE forbearance plans continued to hold steady week-over-week. In total, 3.3% of all GSE-backed loans and 9.4% of all FHA/VA loans are currently in active forbearance. Another 5.1% of loans in private label securities or banks’ portfolios are also in forbearance.
New plans edged higher thanks to an increase in restart activity, but overall, these numbers remain below pre-holiday levels. Forbearance starts were up 10,000 from last week but remain below the weekly average heading into the holidays by 22,000. With some 370,000 active plans up for review for extension/removal through the end of January, the potential for additional removals remains, although it’s expected to be more moderate than what had been seen early in the recovery.
Overall, as of Jan. 12, 5.1% of all mortgages are in forbearance, which equates to 2.73 million. Altogether, they represent $545 billion in unpaid principal, a staggering number for the U.S. housing market. Of the homeowners in active forbearance, about 15% have remained current on their mortgage payments, and 83% have had their plans extended at some point since the pandemic began to impact the American economy last March.