On Tuesday, the market received a modicum of clarity around Agency prepayments amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, when the FHFA released new guidelines for mortgage borrowers currently in forbearance or on repayment plans who wish to refinance or buy a new home.
Borrowers that use forbearance will most likely opt for a forbearance deferment, which delays the missed P&I until the loan matures. The FHFA announcement temporarily declares that borrowers are eligible to refinance three months after their forbearance ends and they have made three consecutive payments under their repayment plan, payment deferral option, or loan modification.”
With the share of mortgage loans in forbearance accelerating to over 8 percent, according to the MBA, and retail mortgage interest rates remaining at historically low levels, the FHFA’s announcement potentially expands the universe of mortgages in Agency securities eligible for refi. However, mortgage rates must be sufficiently low as to make economic sense to refinance both the unpaid principal balance of the loan and the deferred payments, which accrue at 0%. We estimate that a 6-month forbearance means that rates must be an additional 25bp lower to match the same payment savings as a borrower who doesn’t need to refinance the deferred payments. In turn, this will slow refinancing on loans with a forbearance deferment versus loans without forbearance, when faced with the same refinancing incentive. This attenuated refi activity is on top of the three-payment delay after forbearance is over, which pushes the exercise of the call option out three months and lowers the probability of exercise. In total, loans in forbearance will both be slower and have better convexity than loans not in forbearance.
Today’s FHFA release also extends Fannie’s and Freddie’s ability to purchase single-family mortgages currently in forbearance until at least August 31, 2020.