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Lending Experts: Get Details Before Skipping Mortgage Payments

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Don’t skip mortgage payments unless absolutely necessary, lending experts warned on Monday as concern and confusion pile up about potential consequences of forbearance programs.

Because of the pandemic emergency, those with federally-backed home loans can request forbearance — which can pause or reduce payments for a limited period of time.

“A forbearance does not mean that those payments aren’t due,” said Jeremy Holmgren with Zions Bank.

With nearly 100,000 Utahns currently on unemployment, many are seeking relief from their biggest monthly bill. But Holmgren said to make sure you understand how missed payments will be repaid.

“They will be due at the end of the forbearance period,” he said. “So, for example, if you’re in a 90-day forbearance on that fourth month, all four payments will be due at that time.”

Instead of a forbearance, Holmgren said Zions Bank is offering payment deferrals on the mortgages the bank owns. That allows payments to be tacked on to the end of the loan.

“At the end of the loan, you have three months added on to it,” he said. “And at that fourth month, you are back on schedule with the normal payment and no harm, no foul.”

Mortgage giants Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac responded to the repayment concern on Monday, saying there will be several options for paying back the missed payments on loans owned by the companies.

“Simply put, if you are a homeowner seeking forbearance and Freddie Mac owns your loan, you are never required to make up missed payments in a lump sum,” said Freddie Mac CEO David Brickman in a statement.

However, it’s not clear what the other options will be.

“Mortgage servicers will attempt to contact homeowners 30 days before their forbearance plan is scheduled to end to determine which assistance program is best for them at that time,” Fannie Mae said in a statement.

Another concern with forbearance programs: negative impacts on a borrower’s credit report since a forbearance will be reflected in the payment history on the loan.

“There could be some consequences at the end of that three months,” said Justin Bundy with Heritage Home Loans in St. George.

Bundy has been sounding the alarm about the problems with forbearance programs, advising people to avoid them if possible.

“I know that won’t be possible for everyone,” Bundy said, “but if you can reach out to a family member or reach out to the bank and say, ‘Is there any other way to make this happen for this time being rather than that forbearance?’”

At the end of the forbearance period, Bundy said some borrowers might need to modify their loans in order to catch up on the missed payments. Such modifications can also be viewed negatively by future lenders when assessing creditworthiness.

Before agreeing to any relief program for your mortgage, Bundy said to ask the loan servicing company about possible negative credit reporting and how skipped payments will be handled.

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