Who Calls the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline? Caller Profile is Changing
Since taking the very first call to our Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline in 2003, HPF has been a fixture on the frontlines of the national housing crisis.
To date, we’ve helped more than six million homeowners in need of mortgage assistance and information find sustainable solutions to their unique financial challenges and, whenever possible, to stop foreclosure and stay in their homes. By any measure, that’s a lot of people — and there are millions more still struggling and in need of reliable, accurate information on their mortgage options. At last count, we’re still getting an average 5,000 calls to the Hotline every day.
And while the call volume may be holding steady, we have detected a slight shift in who is doing the calling.
As we reported earlier, whereas people in default on their mortgage used to be the HOPE Hotline’s primary caller, there’s been an uptick in calls from mortgage borrowers who are current but on the brink of default. These borrowers now make up 50% of our call volume — that’s a 70% increase from last year.
What does that likely tell us about the changing profile of today’s distressed homeowner?
While it has always been overly simplistic, inaccurate, and unfair to paint the millions of people who are underwater, behind on their payments, or had lost their home to foreclosure as irresponsible borrowers, we have known firsthand that there is a wide array of homeowners who call us for help, from those who are severely delinquent to those have never missed a payment.
The latest data on our callers report that they are current on their mortgages, but they are actually in financial duress. Many have upwards of $20,000 in unsecured or credit card debt as well as monthly budget deficits of, on average, $755. Even more alarming, three out of four of our callers tell us that a loss of income, whether from unemployment, underemployment, or loss of hours, was the reason they were finding themselves on the verge of default.
These are largely homeowners who were classified as low-risk borrowers when they first took out their mortgages — good job history, strong wages, easily manageable debt obligations, etc. Yet something changed. They experienced some type of economic setback that changed their financial health, such as a job loss, medical problem, divorce, or a death of their spouse. Although they’ve kept the mortgage payments going, they tell us it’s getting harder and harder for them to do so and that here is great fear that they won’t be able to do so much longer. Savings are wiped out, credit cards are maxed, and the 401k has been raided.
Hopefully, this emerging pattern we’re seeing doesn’t result in a second wave for the housing crisis. With very limited options available to homeowners who are struggling but not yet delinquent, those of us working to resolve this housing crisis need to be thinking collectively about ways to help these borrowers — before their crises could potentially set the housing market back again.
Did this emerging caller profile sound familiar? If so, call our Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673). We’d like to try to help.