Ann Winn called her mortgage company to see if payments should be suspended in late March, shortly after having to close the salon she owns in suburban Austin, Texas.
What followed, she said, were hours of strained calls and emails with Freedom Mortgage Corp. The company agreed to let her skip a few payments, but only if she paid them all back in one lump sum this summer. Ms. Winn didn’t know when she would be back to work, so she refused.
“I’m just not going to pay my other bills,” she said, “because I don’t want to lose my house.”
the Coronavirus pandemic has given the economy a boost and the mortgage market is particularly exposed. The virus has forced millions of homeowners to suddenly stop paying. At the same time, many mortgage companies are not designed to handle an economic collapse or help their customers through it. Many of these are non-bank institutions that do not have deposits or other lines of business to amortize them, and they have raised concerns that head-on payments for borrowers in difficulty such as Mrs. Winn empty them of capital.
Years ago, the financial crisis revealed the folly of producing “lying loans”. Regulators have cracked down and mortgages issued today are generally more conservative. What regulators haven’t focused on is the strength of the mortgage companies themselves. Although loans are stronger, much of the infrastructure has not changed.