With the outbreak of COVID-19 this spring, several states across the country issued stay-at-home orders, forcing most Americans to spend much more time in their homes than ever before. As a result, homes have taken on a new meaning as they became our new offices, playgrounds, sporting fields, entertainment venues and a safe refuge during this challenging time.

The good news is the U.S. homeownership rate increased at the beginning of this year, according to a new analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS) shows the number of home owners rose by 2.6 million in the first quarter of 2020, bringing the U.S. homeownership rate to 65.3 percent. The number of home owner households has been climbing since the third quarter of 2015 and homeownership rates among all age groups increased in the first quarter 2020. The data reveals that millions of families were able to hunker down in a place they owned as the pandemic unfolded.

Home owners who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 should be aware of mortgage payment options available. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that home owners should continue to make their monthly mortgage payments if they can. However, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced options for home owners if their ability to pay their mortgage is impacted by COVID-19. If a loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, borrowers may be eligible to delay making their monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period during in which late fees won’t be incurred and foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended.

You can check online to see if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac by visiting the following websites:

• Fannie Mae: knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup
• Freddie Mac: ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup

Borrowers impacted by the coronavirus are encouraged to contact their mortgage service providers to discuss mortgage assistance and relief options.

In times of economic uncertainty, home owners must be vigilant and steer clear of bad actors who may want to steal personal information related to their property. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is urging consumers to watch out for fraudulent calls, e-mails or text messages posing as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, requests for upfront cash for mortgage relief, or unsolicited offers for mortgage assistance.

By Dan Ormesher, Home Builders Association of Northern Colorado. To learn more about homeownership throughout National Homeownership Month in June or any time of the year, contact the Home Builders Association of Northern Colorado at 970.686.2798.