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LendingTree Finds Google Searches for ‘Forbearance’ and ‘Mortgage Forbearance’ Have Fallen After Hitting 2020 Peaks

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The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Americans hard financially, with millions of people out of work while others have seen their incomes reduced amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, struggling homeowners have been looking into mortgage forbearance to temporarily suspend monthly home loan payments. Google searches for the terms “forbearance” and “mortgage forbearance” hit peak popularity in late March and early April, compared to nearly zero searches for those terms throughout 2019.

However, a new study from LendingTree, one of the nation’s leading online loan marketplaces, shows that searches for these terms in some areas have already begun to fall from their 2020 peaks. LendingTree’s study found that Google searches for “forbearance” and “mortgage forbearance” fell in all but two of 50 of the nation’s largest metros. Additionally, LendingTree’s study found at least a 20% decline in the popularity of these two term searches in 29 of those 50 metros.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific reason why there’s a dip in forbearance-related searches. On one hand, it could mean that homeowners are deciding that forbearance isn’t the right option for them after looking into it, particularly if their lender is requiring a lump-sum payment after the forbearance period ends.

In that case, homeowners will need to continue exploring other types of relief programs. It’s also possible that government interventions, such as stimulus checks and foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, are easing some of the financial pain and uncertainty, at least for now.

Key findings

Combined searches for “forbearance” and “mortgage forbearance” have fallen across 48 of the 50 metros analyzed in LendingTree’s study. The average decline was 23.9% from each metro’s 2020 peak value.

While most metros have seen a decline in people searching for the forbearance terms, searches in some metros are staying high. Because the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is in flux, interest in these terms may change over the coming weeks. Nonetheless, a downward trend does appear to be forming across the nation, though it’s too early to say what’s driving it or if it will stick.

Louisville, Ky., Kansas City, Mo. and Oklahoma City have seen the largest drops in search interest since their 2020 peaks. The average decline in these metros was 62.3% of their peak 2020 values, bringing search-interest values down to 30, 37.5, and 45.5, respectively.

In contrast, Hartford, Conn., and Grand Rapids, Mich., are still seeing peak search activity. In each of these metros, the average search-interest value for “forbearance” and “mortgage forbearance” have remained at their 2020 peak values.

If search trends remain constant over the following weeks and months, then the number of people searching for “forbearance” and “mortgage forbearance” could decline significantly by the end of May. Search-interest values could fall from an average of 73.8 for the week starting on April 5 to 38.5 by the end of May.

Metros with the largest decline in Google searches for ‘forbearance’ and ‘mortgage forbearance’

No. 1: Louisville, Ky.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Present search-interest value: 30
  • % decline from 2020 peak to present: -70%

No. 2: Kansas City, Mo.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Present search-interest value: 37.5
  • % decline from 2020 peak to present: -62.5%

No. 3: Oklahoma City

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Present search-interest value: 45.5
  • % decline from 2020 peak to present: -54.5%

Metros that have seen the smallest decline in Google searches for ‘forbearance’ and ‘mortgage forbearance’

No. 1 (Tie): Hartford, Conn.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Present search-interest value: 100
  • % decline from 2020 peak to present: 0%

No. 1 (Tie): Grand Rapids, Mich.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Present search-interest value: 100
  • % decline from 2020 peak to present: 0%

No. 2: Columbus, Ohio

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 93
  • Present search-interest value: 92.5
  • % decline from 2020 peak to present: 0.5%

Metros with the lowest predicted search-interest value

No. 1: Louisville, Ky.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Predicted end of May 2020 search-interest value: 15.6

No. 2: Kansas City, Mo.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Predicted end of May 2020 search-interest value: 19.5

No. 3: Memphis, Tenn.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 50
  • Predicted end of May 2020 search-interest value: 22.4

Metros with the highest predicted search-interest value

No. 1 (Tie): Hartford, Conn.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Predicted end of May 2020 search-interest value: 52.1

No. 1 (Tie): Grand Rapids, Mich.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Predicted end of May 2020 search-interest value: 52.1

No. 3: Sacramento, Calif.

  • Peak 2020 search-interest value: 100
  • Predicted end of May 2020 search-interest value: 49.8

Methodology

The data for this piece comes from Google Trends. The “search-interest numbers/values” are defined by Google in the following way: “Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.”

This study averaged search-term values for “forbearance” and “mortgage forbearance” in order to create a more robust dataset. This was done because “forbearance” is often used to exclusively reference mortgage forbearance, as opposed to forbearance for other types of loans.

To determine how far search interest could fall, LendingTree calculated the average percent decline from 2020’s peak search-interest value to its present value as of the week starting April 5, 2020. By assuming that 2020’s peak value would decline by double that amount, LendingTree was able to estimate the search-interest value for the end of May 2020.

LendingTree research analyst Jacob Channel contributed to this study.

 

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