A Guide to Mortgage Assistance During COVID-19

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

For some homeowners who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high level of concern about paying their mortgage. Fortunately, there are options to aid struggling homeowners from governments, financial institutions, and loan providers. The following information is intended to provide clarity on which financial relief options are available to you during this time.

 

What are my mortgage relief options?

Newly placed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides two protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages:

 

  1. Your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days following March 18, 2020. The CARES Act prohibits lenders and/or servicers from beginning a non-judicial foreclosure, or finalizing a foreclosure sale, against you within this time period. While 60 days has passed since this was put into place, it is still important to be aware of in the event that any of these actions were taken against you.
  2. You have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days if you experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also apply for a 180-day extension beyond the forbearance period. This does not require submitting additional documentation beyond your claim, nor will you incur additional fees, penalties or interest beyond what has already been scheduled.

 

Forbearance is…

  • With forbearance, mortgage servicers and lenders allow you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a period of time while you get back on your feet financially.
  • Different types of loans beget different forbearance options, understanding the differences and which options apply to your loan is key to navigating the forbearance landscape.
  • Once your income is back to a normal level, contact your loan servicer and resume your payments.

 

Forbearance is not…

  • Forbearance is not a means to forgive or erase your payments. Any missed or reduced payments still require payment in the future.

 

Which relief options do I qualify for?

The first step in discovering your mortgage assistance qualifications is to contact your mortgage provider. If you are unsure of how to get in touch with them, look at your mortgage statement for contact information or see what contact options are available online.

After you have successfully made contact, find out if your mortgage is federally backed. To be eligible for assistance under the CARES act, your mortgage must either be backed federally, or by one of the entities in the list below. These links show the agencies’ current advise and related loan information:

 

For non-federally backed loans, contact your lender or servicer to learn more about their forbearance repayment options.

 

Today’s financial landscape can be stressful for homeowners, especially those that are struggling to keep up financially. Fortunately, these entities, institutions, and servicers have provided options to help lessen the burden. Knowing which options apply to you and your household will help you navigate through hardship as your finances recover.


Posted on June 11, 2020 at 8:23 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – JUNE 2020

  • The Stay Home order, as expected, continued to impact the number of sales. However, the market is starting to move its way towards more normal activity. Pending sales, a measure of current demand, have risen every week since April.
  • The slight drop in median closed sale price is a result of a proportionately larger number of lower priced homes selling than is normal. It should not be interpreted as a decrease in individual home value.
  • There were significantly fewer homes for sale in May than the same time last year. With less than a month of available inventory, competition among buyers was intense. Bidding wars and all-cash offers were common.

The monthly statistics below are based on closed sales. Since closing generally takes 30 days, the statistics for May are mostly reflective of sales in April. If you are interested in more information, every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.  As we adapt to new phases of reopening, know that the safety of everyone remains our top priority.


Posted on June 11, 2020 at 8:16 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market Report | Tagged , , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – MAY 2020

We hope you are weathering the new normal as best as you can. With everyone spending more time than ever at home, real estate has taken on a whole new importance. For those who are interested, here is a brief update on how COVID-19 continues to affect our local market:

  • Business was better than expected under the Stay Home order. COVID-19 did reduce real estate sales in April as compared to a year ago, however the number of sales rose steadily each week of the month. Sales growth continued in early May and we expect sales to increase slowly week by week.
  • The number of new listings dropped, suggesting that would-be sellers are waiting until the shelter-in-place order is over to put their home on the market. With local technology companies continuing to hire, buyers will continue to face competition for limited inventory in the coming months.
  • Home prices remain stable, with the median price of homes sold in April up slightly from a year ago. Sellers appear to be pricing homes realistically and buyers are not finding deep discounts.

The monthly statistics below are based on closed sales. Since closing generally takes 30 days, the statistics for April are mostly reflective of sales in March. Next month’s data will offer a more telling trend of the effect of the virus on the local housing market.

If you are interested in more information, every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.

As our current situation evolves, know that the safety of everyone remains our top priority.


Posted on May 13, 2020 at 5:53 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News, Market Report | Tagged , , , , , ,

THE GARDNER REPORT – FIRST QUARTER 2020

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please reach out anytime!

A MESSAGE FROM MATTHEW GARDNER

Needless to say, any discussion about the U.S. economy, state economy, or housing markets in the first quarter of this year is almost meaningless given events surrounding the COVID-19 virus.

Although you will see below data regarding housing activity in the region, many markets came close to halting transactions in March and many remain in some level of paralysis. As such, drawing conclusions from the data is almost a futile effort. I would say, though, it is my belief that the national and state housing markets were in good shape before the virus hit and will be in good shape again, once we come out on the other side. In a similar fashion, I anticipate the national and regional economies will start to thaw, and that many of the jobs lost will return with relative speed. Of course, all of these statements are wholly dependent on the country seeing a peak in new infections in the relatively near future. I stand by my contention that the housing market will survive the current economic crisis and it is likely we will resume a more normalized pattern of home sales in the second half of the year.

HOME SALES

  • There were 13,378 home sales during the first quarter of 2020, a drop of only 0.2% from the same period in 2019, but 27% lower than in the final quarter of 2019.
  • The number of homes for sale was 32% lower than a year ago and was also 32% lower than in the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • When compared to the first quarter of 2019 sales rose in eight counties and dropped in seven. The greatest growth was in Cowlitz and Lewis counties. The largest declines were in Island and Snohomish counties.
  • Pending sales — a good gauge of future closings — rose 0.7% compared to the final quarter of 2019. We can be assured that closed sales in the second quarter of this year will be lower due to COVID-19.

HOME PRICES

  • Home-price growth in Western Washington rose compared to a year ago, with average prices up 8.7%. The average sale price in Western Washington was $524,392, and prices were 0.4% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Home prices were higher in every county except San Juan, which is prone to significant swings in average sale prices because of its size.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Clallam County, where home prices were up 21.7%. Double-digit price increases were also seen in Kitsap, Skagit, Mason, Thurston, and Snohomish counties.
  • Affordability issues remain and, even given the current uncertain environment, I believe it is highly unlikely we will see any form of downward price pressures once the region reopens.

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the first quarter of this year dropped seven days compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • Pierce County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 29 days to sell. All but two counties — San Juan and Clallam — saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop compared to the same period a year ago.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 54 days to sell a home in the first quarter of the year — up 8 days compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Market time remains below the long-term average across the region. This is likely to change, albeit temporarily, in the second quarter due to COVID-19.

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

Given the current economic environment, I have decided to freeze the needle in place until we see a restart in the economy. Once we have resumed “normal” economic activity, there will be a period of adjustment with regard to housing. Therefore, it is appropriate to wait until later in the year to offer my opinions about any quantitative impact the pandemic will have on the housing market.

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.


Posted on April 19, 2020 at 5:50 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – APRIL 2020

Windermere is focused on keeping our clients and our community safe and connected. We’re all in this together. Since the early days of COVID-19, our philosophy has been “Go slow and do no harm.” While real estate has been deemed an “essential” business, we have adopted guidelines that prioritize everyone’s safety and wellness.

Like everything else in our world, real estate is not business as usual. While market statistics certainly aren’t our focus at this time, we’ve opted to include our usual monthly report for those who may be interested. A few key points:

  • The monthly statistics are based on closed sales. Since closing generally takes 30 days, the statistics for March are mostly reflective of contracts signed in February, a time period largely untouched by COVID-19. The market is different today.
  • We expect that inventory and sales will decline in April and May as a result of the governor’s Stay Home order.
  • Despite the effects of COVID-19, the market in March was hot through mid-month. It remains to be seen if that indicates the strong market will return once the Stay Home order is lifted, or if economic changes will soften demand.

Every Monday, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.

Stay healthy and be safe. We’ll get through this together.


Posted on April 16, 2020 at 12:54 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , , ,

Your Guide to Spring Cleaning

Image Source: Canva

Many of us have found ourselves spending much of our time indoors as of late, and as spring blooms in the sunlight, you might be noticing that it’s time to treat your home to a little TLC. When it comes to wellness, your health and the health of your home go hand in hand. Here are some tips to guide you through your spring cleaning this year.

First clean, then disinfect​

​​​​​​​General cleaning rids your home’s surfaces of contaminants, but disinfecting targets pathogens. A combination of the two before—as well as after—your spring cleaning will have your home in peak health. When disinfecting, target high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, and faucets.

Devices like your computer, phone and tablets are worthy of disinfecting as well, since they are high-touch surfaces that we carry around constantly. Avoid cleaners heavy in toxins and chemicals, which spread throughout your home. Look for plant- and mineral-based ingredients and natural solvents.

  • Work top-to-bottom
    • ​​Working from ceiling to walls to counters to floors guides dust and debris downwards and prevents any re-cleaning of the same areas.
  • Ceiling
    • Being the season when allergies kick up, a quality dusting can be even more important for your health. Curtains, blinds, carpets and ceiling fans all collect dust easily; being thorough in these areas will pay off in the long run. Don’t forget the corners where cobwebs collect.
  • Walls & Windows
    • Consider giving your walls a cleanse with a damp towel, especially in the kitchen near your oven and coffee maker. Cleaning your windows helps bring in more natural light and is the key to getting the most out of your home’s view.
  • Floors
    • All floors need a good cleanse, but different materials require different cleaning methods. With laminate and vinyl flooring, dry mopping will do the trick. Sealed wood floors can take mopping, but waxed floors can’t—they require sweeping or vacuuming instead.

Declutter

Decluttering can be a daunting task. But with more time at home, we have more time to conquer this task day by day. Divide the rooms up by how much time they will take to declutter. Rooms like the kitchen and playroom will likely take longer than the living room or bathroom.

  • Separate the unnecessary or underused items into two categories: Donate and Storage. Gather your donated items—whether they’re going to thrift stores, local shelters, or charity—so they can be distributed out in one trip.
  • When it comes to storage, consider which items are likely to be taken out more often, like tools or seasonal items. Put them away last so they are easy to access. Hopefully this exercise, done year after year, will cut your storage stockpile down to what is essential.

Go for multipurpose

  • Minimalism is a space-saving movement that has picked up momentum in recent years. Even if you aren’t looking to downsize, incorporating multifunctionality into your home can bring an added dimension to your spring cleaning.
  • ​Common multipurpose features include lofted beds with below storage, using a corner desk to create an office nook, and folding tables to transform a dining room to a dinner party with ease.

Posted on April 9, 2020 at 12:56 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , ,

Matthew Gardner Weekly COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update

Every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market.

Update #1 – 3/23/2020

Update #2 – 3/30/2020

This week he discusses what it really means for the economy and housing to be in a COVID-19 induced recession (hint: it’s not all bad news).

Update #3 – 4/6/2020

In the latest episode of “Mondays with Matthew”, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner dives into part one of his two-part series analyzing the mortgage market. Today’s focus is on the substantial impact COVID-19 has had on jumbo mortgages. Check back next week when he’ll discuss conventional mortgages and provide his latest interest rate forecast.

Update #4 – 4/13/2020

This week on “Mondays with Matthew” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner discusses the impact of COVID-19 on 30-year-mortgages and gives an updated 2020 interest rate forecast.

Update #5 – 4/13/2020

This week on “Mondays with Matthew” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner analyzes the past two decades of the new home construction market and then discusses his predictions for this segment of the market going forward.


Posted on March 31, 2020 at 6:53 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – MARCH 2020

COVID-19 has not yet stopped the housing market’s momentum. Buyer interest remains strong and those who waited last year for a drop in prices have now seen several months of home prices increases. While some sellers and buyers are going to put their real estate sales and searches on hold, others may find opportunity. Despite the headwinds of uncertainty, the market is still very much in motion, as demand outstrips supply and interest rates remain remarkably low.

The data and analysis below looks back at February’s market performance.

Buyers that may have been in wait-and-see mode at the end of 2019 jumped off the fence in February. Pending sales (offers accepted but not yet closed) jumped 27%, snapping up already-tight inventory. 55% of homes on the market sold in 15 days or less. The median home price jumped 9% over a year ago to $985,000, an increase of $58,000 from the prior month. Development on the Eastside continues to surge and includes the recent groundbreaking for a 600-foot tower in Bellevue and a proposed 11 acre mixed-use project.

VIEW FULL EASTSIDE REPORT


Posted on March 18, 2020 at 2:26 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2020

New jobs and low interest rates continue to fuel the housing market boom. While January is traditionally a slower month for activity, the new year saw steady buyer demand. With the number of sales exceeding new listings, all indicators point to a strong spring market.

The tech industry on the Eastside continues to grow rapidly. Microsoft and Alibaba both have significant expansions underway. Amazon expects to increase its workforce in Bellevue to 15,000 in the next few years, a sevenfold increase from today. As the economy continues to grow, inventory keeps being squeezed. There were 47% fewer single-family homes on the market in January than the year prior. Home prices have been stabilizing for some time, fluctuating slightly from month to month. In January the median home price slipped 2% over a year ago to $892,000.

VIEW FULL EASTSIDE REPORT


Posted on February 17, 2020 at 9:40 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , ,

THE GARDNER REPORT – Q4 2019


ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Employment in Washington State continues to soften; it is currently at an annual growth rate of 1.7%. I believe that is a temporary slowdown and we will see the pace of employment growth improve as we move further into the new year. It’s clear that businesses are continuing to feel the effects of the trade war with China and this is impacting hiring practices. This is, of course, in addition to the issues that Boeing currently faces regarding the 737 MAX.

In the fourth quarter of 2019 the state unemployment rate was 4.4%, marginally lower than the 4.5% level of a year ago. My most recent economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2020 will rise 2.2%, with a total of 76,300 new jobs created.

HOME SALES

  • There were 18,322 home sales registered during the final quarter of 2019, representing an impressive increase of 4.7% from the same period in 2018.
  • Readers may remember that listing activity spiked in the summer of 2018 but could not be sustained, with the average number of listings continuing to fall. Year-over-year, the number of homes for sale in Western Washington dropped 31.7%.
  • Compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, sales rose in nine counties and dropped in six. The greatest growth was in Whatcom County. San Juan County had significant declines, but this is a very small market which makes it prone to extreme swings.
  • Pending home sales — a barometer for future closings — dropped 31% between the third and fourth quarters of 2019, suggesting that we may well see a dip in the number of closed sales in the first quarter of 2020.

HOME PRICES

  • Home price growth in Western Washington spiked during fourth quarter, with average prices 8.3% higher than a year ago. The average sale price in Western Washington was $526,564, 0.7% higher than in the third quarter of 2019.
  • It’s worth noting that above-average price growth is happening in markets some distance from the primary job centers. I strongly feel this is due to affordability issues, which are forcing buyers farther out.
  • Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in San Juan County, where home prices were up 41.7%. Six additional counties also saw double-digit price increases.
  • Home prices were higher in every county contained in this report. I expect this trend to continue in 2020, but we may see a softening in the pace of growth in some of the more expensive urban areas.

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped four days compared to the third quarter of 2019.
  • For the second quarter in a row, Thurston County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 29 days to sell. In nine counties, the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in four counties and two were unchanged.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 47 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter. This was up nine days over the third quarter of this year.
  • Market time remains below the long-term average across the region, a trend that will likely continue until we see more inventory come to market — possibly as we move through the spring.

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

The housing market ended the year on a high note, with transactions and prices picking up steam. I believe the uncertainty of 2018 (when we saw significant inventory enter the market) has passed and home buyers are back in the market. Unfortunately, buyers’ desire for more inventory is not being met and I do not see any significant increase in listing activity on the horizon. As such, I have moved the needle more in favor of home sellers.

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.


Posted on February 1, 2020 at 9:36 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , , ,