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Does heading to the mall at the peak of gift-giving season seem like a noel nightmare? Would you rather shop cuddled up in your flannel PJs than run the risk of bumping into neighbors at your local stores and boutiques? And does the idea of being trampled by a pack of savings-hungry holiday hounds sound less-than-cheery? If seasonal shopping has you feeling like The Grinch, ringing in the holidays from behind a computer screen may be the only way for you to stay sane. You may not get to sit on the department store Santa's lap, but your laptop will have to suffice.

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But you will not be the only one tapping feverishly on your keyboard this shopping season. More and more people are giving up driving in traffic and standing in line to find the perfect gifts for those on their shopping list. For the first year, online shopping will beat out in-store sales, making the marvels of modern technology as holiday-friendly as ever. Does Amazon hire reindeer come wintertime?

It is true, forget about jingling all the way to a crowded store promising bags-full of festive gifts at rock bottom prices. And no need to skip Thanksgiving dessert to be the first to arrive at a pre-Black Friday sale that will have your head spinning. As per Business Insider, "People say they plan to spend more money online than in stores this holiday shopping season. This is the first year in Deloitte's annual survey that shoppers have predicted their online purchases will exceed what they buy in-store." Will you be one of these at-home shoppers helping boost these numbers?

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While the stats are not through the roof – Business Insider notes, "Shoppers plan to spend 51% of their holiday shopping budget online, compared to 42% in stores, according to Deloitte's survey of more than 4,000 Americans," it is still a significant enough uptick from last year, and the trend is on an upward swing. And this number equates to 108 million people who shopped online on Thanksgiving weekend last year, which was 5 million more than the year prior. With this trend, 2017's outlook for online shopping will be impressive. Great for online retailers, not-so-hot for the brick-and-mortars trying to keep pace with the wonders of the web.

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Do you love the thrill of snooping through shelves, rustling through racks, and hearing the "cha-ching" of the cash register? Is it important for you to see and feel items in person before committing to a purchase, especially one that is set to be a gift? Or, like millions of other Americans, is online shopping satisfactory, if not more appealing than making your purchases in-store?

The perks of shopping online are evident – more choices, the ability to easily price shop, no crowds, any-time-of-day browsing, and so on and so forth. The holiday energy may be lacking, but the convenience is enough to give the carolers a night off.

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Happy holidays! And whether you shop online or head out, let's hope your gift list has more loved ones labeled as "nice." Or better yet, pray you're not on anyone's "naughty" column!

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.