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LendingTree Finds the Majority of Homeowners Approved for a Mortgage Forbearance May Not Have Needed One

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners questioned whether or not they’d be able to pay their monthly mortgage payments. As a result, millions of people requested a mortgage forbearance agreement, which temporarily postpones or lowers a borrower’s monthly mortgage payments.

Though forbearance can be a boon for homeowners struggling to stay afloat, a new LendingTree survey conducted by Qualtrics suggests that most people who received a forbearance may not have actually needed one.

Typically, lenders require borrowers to prove they’re experiencing a financial hardship in order to qualify for forbearance. However, the mortgage relief outlined in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act lets homeowners with government-backed loans apply for forbearance without having to prove a hardship. This helps explain why so many people were able to get a forbearance even though they didn’t necessarily need one.

Regardless of whether or not you need one, getting a forbearance may still be a good strategy for managing your personal finances. With uncertainty around how long the COVID-19 crisis will last and how deep its economic impact will be, preserving cash is a priority for many Americans. A mortgage forbearance temporarily removes mortgage payments from the equation. This pause can provide more wiggle room in homeowners’ budgets until the forbearance period ends.

Key findings

  • 25% of homeowners surveyed applied for forbearance due to a coronavirus-related hardship.
  • Of the 25% that applied, 80% were approved for a forbearance.
  • While the majority of people who applied were approved, only 5% said they wouldn’t have been able to pay their mortgage without forbearance.
  • 72% of those who received forbearance reported feeling at least a little guilty about it.

Those who applied for forbearance differed along gender, generational and income divides

In general, women were less likely to apply for forbearance than men, with 10.2% of women and 37.8% of men surveyed applying because of the coronavirus pandemic. While men were far more likely to apply than women, approval rates between the genders were similar, with 75% of women and 81% of men being approved.

Younger homeowners were more likely to apply for a forbearance than older homeowners. About 36% of millennials and 35.1% of Gen Xers applied for forbearance. This is compared with just 3.5% of baby boomers. Of those who applied, 76% of millennials, 87.6% of Gen Xers and 76.9% of baby boomers were approved.

Homeowners in higher-income brackets were more likely to apply and be approved for forbearance. One explanation may be that lenders see higher-income earners as more likely to repay missed payments later down the line.

Homeowners: ‘Did you apply for a mortgage forbearance due to the coronavirus,’ broken down by income
Response Less than $25,000 $25,000 – $34,999 $35,000 – $49,999 $50,000 – $74,999 $75,000 – $99,999 $100,000 or more
N/A (mortgage is paid off) 36.4% 21.5% 22.1% 16.0% 8.7% 12.4%
No 53.7% 59.8% 60.3% 66.0% 62.3% 53.0%
Yes 9.9% 18.7% 17.6% 18.1% 29.0% 34.5%

Note: Incomes are reported as gross 2019 household earnings.

Homeowners: ‘Were you approved for forbearance,’ broken down by income
Response Less than $25,000 $25,000 – $34,999 $35,000 – $49,999 $50,000 – $74,999 $75,000 – $99,999 $100,000 or more
Don’t know 0.0% 0.0% 16.7% 7.0% 6.7% 1.2%
No 25.0% 50.0% 29.2% 14.0% 16.7% 9.9%
Yes 75.0% 50.0% 54.2% 79.1% 76.7% 88.8%

Note: Incomes are reported as gross 2019 household earnings

Vast majority of respondents claimed they could’ve made payments without forbearance

Five percent of homeowners who were approved for forbearance said they wouldn’t have been able to make their mortgage payment without it. Furthermore, 26.2% of survey respondents said they could have paid their mortgages, but would’ve needed to skip other essential bills. And almost 70% said they could’ve made their payments, but just wanted a break from their normal payments.

Of all the generations, millennials and Gen Xers were more likely to say that they wanted a break from payments. Notably, 71% of respondents from these age groups said they could’ve made their payment but just wanted a pause. An average of only 4.3% of millennials and Gen Xers said they wouldn’t have been able to pay their mortgages without forbearance.

While fewer baby boomers applied for forbearance, as older homeowners are more likely to own their homes outright or are closer to paying off their mortgages, those who did were in much greater need. In fact, 20% of baby boomers said they needed forbearance to avoid missing their monthly payment.

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Most who were granted forbearance felt some guilt about it

Asking for help isn’t easy when you fall on hard times, and some homeowners may even feel embarrassed or guilty about it. Of those surveyed, 33.2% felt “a lot” of guilt about receiving forbearance, while 38.3% felt “a little” guilty. Generally, women were more likely to feel “not at all” guilty compared with men (43.8% versus 25.2%), while 70%  of baby boomers reported feeling no guilt, compared to 30% of millennials and 20.4% of Gen Xers.

Homeowners: ‘Do you feel guilty about receiving mortgage forbearance,’ broken down by gender and generation
Response Female Male Millennials Gen X Baby Boomers
A little 39.6% 37.4% 37.6% 38.9% 30.0%
A lot 16.7% 37.4% 32.5% 40.7% 0.0%
Not at all 43.8% 25.2% 29.9% 20.4% 70.0%


LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,305 homeowners. The survey was fielded April 28-May 1, 2020.
Generations are defined as the following age ranges in 2020:

• Millennials are aged 24 to 39
• Gen Xers are aged 40 to 54
• Baby boomers are aged 55 to 74

While LendingTree’s survey included homeowners who identified themselves as being from Generation Z and the silent generation, the sample sizes for both groups were so small that findings related to each group were not included in this study.

LendingTree research analyst Jacob Channel contributed to this study.


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