Fewer Massachusetts homeowners missed payments in the fourth quarter on Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages compared to earlier in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic continues to see homeowners seeking forbearance plans, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The FHFA’s quarterly Foreclosure Prevention and Refinance Report showed that 26,489 Massachusetts single-family mortgages held by one of the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, were considered delinquent at the end of 2020, down from 33,178 at the end of June but about 68 percent higher compared to the end of 2019, when 15,730 mortgages had missed payments.

Massachusetts had about 695,000 single-family mortgages with the GSEs on Dec. 31, and 3.8 percent were considered delinquent. At the end of June, 4.9 percent of single-family loans had missed payments.

Most of the delinquent loans are in forbearance. Nationwide, about 1.2 million mortgages were delinquent, down from 1.6 million on June 30. The total number of loans in forbearance plans nationwide at the end of the fourth quarter was 804,559, down from 1.39 million on June 30. About 2.8 percent of the 29.26 million loans serviced by the GSEs were in forbearance at the end of 2020.

“The total number of loans in forbearance continued to trend downward since its peak in May as initiated forbearance plans decreased, but remained elevated through the fourth quarter (compared with pre-pandemic levels),” the FHFA said in a statement last week.

In Massachusetts, 16,419 single-family GSE loans were in forbearance plans on Dec. 31, representing 2.4 percent of loans.

Nationwide, GSE’s serious (90 days or more) delinquency rate was 2.8 percent at the end of the fourth quarter, an increase from 2.58 percent at the end of the second quarter. The rate was lower than other mortgage products, according to the FHFA, including 11.19 percent for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, 5.96 percent for Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, and 5.03 percent for the industry average.

In Massachusetts, 2.4 percent of GSE loans were considered serious delinquent. On June 30, 2.1 percent of GSE loans were in the serious delinquent category and at the end of 2019, 0.7 percent of GSE loans were in this category.

The impact of COVID-19 led to a nearly ninefold increase in actions taken by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to prevent foreclosure in 2020. According to the FHFA, the GSEs took 21,902 foreclosure prevention actions in 2020, up from 2,495 in 2019. The most common steps taken in 2020 were forbearance and payment deferral plans. Nationwide, nearly 1.16 million foreclosure prevention actions were taken.

Delinquency Rates on GSE Loans Improve But Remain High

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 2 min