new Freddie Mac survey found that both homeowners and renters are still
concerned about their ability to pay their mortgage or their monthly rent as
the pandemic wears on. but those concerns have lessened since last fall. The COVID-19
Tracking Poll has contacted over 1,000 respondents on an irregular basis over
the past year. Two thirds are homeowners, the remainder are renters.
Over the nine months the survey was conducted in 2020, more than half of renters
were concerned about making their monthly payments, fluctuating between 54
percent in April to 71 percent in November. Renter concern began to ebb in December
to 67 percent and dropped further to 63 percent last month. Homeowners concerns
over mortgage payments were at a low of 33 percent in June, rising to a high of
55 percent in October. By year end, 45 percent of respondents were expressing
concern and in February it improved to 41 percent.
As of December 2020, 27 percent of homeowners and 35 percent of renters had
asked for a housing payment postponement, most commonly due to uncertainty over
making payments beyond the next one. In the most recent survey, in February,
those numbers had dropped to 19 percent of homeowners and 28 percent of
Confidence in the housing market has remained high over the course of the
survey, averaging 60 percent over 2020 the surveys and improving to 66 percent
in February. Renters were more likely that existing homeowners to buy a home
last year, many doing so in late summer and early fall. The likelihood that homeowners
would sell their homes (18 percent) and that renters planned to purchase one
(34 percent) has held steady so far this year. Refinance activity also remains
strong, with nearly a third of homeowners indicating they were likely to
refinance their home within the first six months of 2021.
While many homeowners and renters are struggling financially, 72 percent of
those who are currently employed are confident they will maintain the same
level of income through the first half of this year, but that amount wasn’t
always adequate. In the February survey, 43 percent said they were living
payday-to-payday while 17 percent didn’t have enough for the basics until the
next paycheck. The remaining 40 percent had enough to go beyond payday.
“Freddie Mac is focused on understanding how consumers are thinking about
their current and future financial situation amid a pandemic,” said Donna
Corley, executive vice president and head of Single-Family Business. Both
Corley and Debbie Jenkins, executive vice president and head of Multifamily Business,
said that, while the housing market has recovered faster than the rest of the
economy, the pandemic has been economically devastating for millions of
They stressed the steps their company has taken to help struggling
homeowners and renters with financial hardships related to the pandemic. These
include the suspension of foreclosures and evictions until the end of June and
the availability of forbearance programs.
The company has also announced Help Starts Here to assist the industry at
large and a national Borrower Help Network, nonprofit intermediaries that offer
free assistance, including a full suite of financial education and mortgage
help services. There is also a renter helpline to access free counseling from
HUD certified housing counselors. Further information on these programs can be
found at https://myhome.freddiemac.com/.