By Tony Koneski, Jr.,
President Lehigh Valley Builders Association
With the outbreak of COVID-19 this spring, several states across the country issued stay-at-home orders, forcing most Americans to spend much more time in their homes than ever before. As a result, homes have taken on a new meaning as they became our new offices, playgrounds, sporting fields, entertainment venues, and a safe refuge during this challenging time.
The good news is the U.S. homeownership rate increased at the beginning of this year, according to a new analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS) shows the number of homeowners rose by 2.6 million in the first quarter of 2020, bringing the U.S. homeownership rate to 65.3 percent. The number of homeowner households has been climbing since the third quarter of 2015 and homeownership rates among all age groups increased in the first quarter, 2020. The data reveals that millions of families were able to hunker down in a place they owned as the pandemic unfolded.
Homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 should be aware of mortgage payment options available. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that homeowners should continue to make their monthly mortgage payments if they can. However, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced options for homeowners if their ability to pay their mortgage is impacted by COVID-19. If a loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, borrowers may be eligible to delay making their monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period during which late fees won’t be incurred and foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended.
You can check online to see if your loan is owned by either of these entities:
• Fannie Mae
• Freddie Mac
Borrowers impacted by the coronavirus are encouraged to contact their mortgage service providers to discuss mortgage assistance and relief options.
In times of economic uncertainty, homeowners must be vigilant and steer clear of bad actors who may want to steal personal information related to their property. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is urging consumers to watch out for fraudulent calls, emails, or text messages posing as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, requests for upfront cash for mortgage relief, or unsolicited offers for mortgage assistance.