The number of Americans who have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic standing at more than 40 million. With this, many are struggling to pay their mortgage bills each month.
For nearly every one of us, housing is the single largest monthly expense. And unlike kicking a Starbucks habit to save a few dollars every month, your mortgage payment can’t be trimmed out of a budget.
Fortunately, you have some options available to help lower your monthly mortgage payment.
Refinance Your Loan
The Federal Reserve lowered rates back down to zero in late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With this, mortgage rates hit new record lows in early May. Bankrate.com is advertising 30-year fixed-rate mortgages as low as 3.5% and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages as low as 2.89%.
The benefit of refinancing at a lower rate is two-fold. The main benefit is with a lower rate on your mortgage, your monthly payment will go down, making it more affordable. The secondary benefit is that with a lower rate, you’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan. This potentially lets you save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You’ll incur some costs to refinance your loan. So, make sure that your monthly savings are large enough to justify the expense. Additionally, if you’ve had your existing mortgage for a number of years, you’ll be resetting your mortgage amortization back to 15 or 30 years. So if you’ve been paying on your 30-year mortgage for 8 years, instead of having 22 years left, you’ll reset back to 30 years (or down to 15 years if you take a shorter term).
Put Your Stimulus Check or Tax Refund Towards Your Loan
If you still have the $1200 of stimulus funds available, or are collecting a tax refund this year, consider using them towards your monthly mortgage payment. It may only cover a portion of your mortgage or maybe just a month or two. However, using this money instead of dipping into your savings or retirement account is preferable. There are discussions ongoing about a potential second stimulus check, but that may not be until later this summer.
Talk To Your Lender About Mortgage Forbearance
If you don’t have the financial ability to continue paying your mortgage, ask your lender about mortgage forbearance. If granted, this will allow you to skip a few months of payments without becoming delinquent or falling behind on your loan. Before you agree to a forbearance plan, make sure your lender explicitly lays out how you are expected to make up the skipped payments. Some may demand a lump-sum payment for the amount you skipped once your forbearance plan ends. Others may tack the amount onto the end of your loan term. Be sure you know exactly what the lender will do once you enter the forbearance agreement.
Find Out If A Mortgage Modification Is Available
If you find yourself falling behind on your mortgage payments and are facing default, your lender may be able to offer you a mortgage modification. A modification changes the terms of the original loan, such as lowering the interest rate, extending the term, or even reducing the principal balance. Typically, a modification is only allowed when the loan is in default. Therefore, if you are making timely payments and are current on your loan, this likely won’t be an option for you. But if you are having financial difficulties, your lender may be able to modify the loan and prevent you from going into foreclosure.