While fewer borrowers missed mortgage payments in December, missed payments in the fourth quarter still totaled approximately $14 billion, according to a study from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America (RIHA).

RIHA’s most recent study, the third installment of “Housing-Related Financial Distress During the Pandemic,” found that 5 percent of mortgage borrowers, about 2.38 million homeowners, missed their mortgage payment in December. This is an improvement from September, when 7.1 percent of mortgage borrowers, or 3.37 million homeowners, missed their mortgage payment.

The study, which also looked at rental and student loan payments, found that 7.9 percent of renters representing 2.62 million households missed, delayed or made a reduced payment in December. Since May, the percent of student loan borrowers missing payments had remained steady at 40 percent, RIHA said, but that share increased to approximately 43 percent of borrowers with student loans in December.

“Gradual improvements in the labor market and economy helped more renters and homeowners make their housing payments at the end of 2020,” Gary V. Engelhardt, professor of economics in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, said in a statement from the MBA. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause financial stress for millions of Americans, and particularly for those who rent and have student loan debt.”

RIHA’s research included data from the Understanding America Study, an internet panel survey of over 8,000 households that studied the pandemic’s impact. The study was authored by Engelhardt and Michael D. Eriksen, associate professor of real estate at the University of Cincinnati.

Mortgage borrowers were less likely than renters to miss payments, the study found. During the second, third and fourth quarters of 2020, 5.3 percent of borrowers missed one payment, 2.0 percent missed two payments, 1.5 percent missed three payments, and 4.9 percent missed four or more payments.

About 18 percent of borrowers received permission from their lender to delay or reduce their monthly payment, RIHA said. Total missed mortgage payments were estimated at $14.2 billion for the fourth quarter compared to an estimated $19.4 billion in the third quarter.

Among renters, 10.7 percent missed one payment during the last three quarters of 2020, while 4 percent missed two payments, 2.7 percent missed three payments and 5.4 percent missed four or more payments.

Landlords gave permission to 12 percent of renters to delay or reduce their monthly payment. Rental property owners lost as much as $7.2 billion in fourth-quarter revenue from missed rent payments, according to RIHA, down from more than $9.1 billion in the third quarter.

Some homeowners and renters feel at risk of foreclosure or eviction, with approximately 1.2 million mortgage borrowers and 2.3 million renters saying they felt at risk of foreclosure, eviction or being forced to move in the next 30 days. Even borrowers who missed no payments during the last three quarters of 2020 were concerned about losing their home, with 2 percent of borrowers saying they felt at risk.

Still, RIHA said fewer households feel at risk compared to earlier in the pandemic.

“Despite 5 million renters and homeowners not making their December payment, fewer believe they are at risk of eviction, a foreclosure, or would be forced to move in the next 30 days. This confidence is perhaps an indication that direct checks and enhanced unemployment benefits, rental assistance, mortgage forbearance programs, and a federal eviction moratorium have so far been effective in keeping people in their homes,” Engelhardt said. “A rapid rollout of vaccines will hopefully slow the virus and lead to a larger reopening of the economy later this year. This would help the labor market and give affected households the opportunity to get back to work, resume their housing and student debt payments, and pay back past-due amounts.”

Study: December Saw $14B in Missed Mortgage Payments

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min