Bankrate’s most-read mortgage and real estate stories of 2020

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We’ve written time and again that 2020 was a big year in the mortgage and real estate industries. Spurred on by COVID-related economic uncertainty, mortgage interest rates dropped, which brought the real estate market to a boil and refinancing activity to an all-time high. Here are our most popular stories that tracked the trends from this year.

Mortgages

1. Lenders offered COVID mortgage repayment relief

The CARES Act mortgage forbearance provisions only technically applied to government-backed loans and those held by semi-public custodians like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But, private lenders across the country followed the government’s lead and many extended forbearance options to their borrowers, even without being required to do so. If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, it’s definitely worth reaching out to your lender to see what options are available to you.

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2. The Fed and mortgage rates

With mortgage interest in the news for much of the year, there was a lot of confusion about how rates on home lending are actually determined. Many people have the misconception that the Federal Reserve sets interest rates on home loans. That’s not quite true. The Fed doesn’t directly dictate mortgage interest, but its policies do affect how much you pay.

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3. Q4 mortgage rate trends

Our readers clearly like to know what’s going on. One of the most popular stories this year was a prediction of where mortgage interest rates would go at the end of the year. We said, correctly, that rates would remain low through the remainder of 2020. Most experts expect the trend to hold into 2021 as well.

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4. A guide to mortgage forbearance

Relief for borrowers was an especially important topic this year, and the readership on our guide for struggling homeowners showed that mortgage relief programs were popular across the board, and necessary for many.

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5. First-time homebuyer programs

The hot housing market meant many people became homeowners for the first time in 2020. Hopefully they were able to take advantage of Bankrate’s roundup of programs meant to save first timers some money or help pave the road to homeownership for them.

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Real estate

1. 10 most COVID-vulnerable counties

Early in the pandemic, many experts expected another housing bubble. It’s true that demand fell off in the first few months, but it rebounded quickly and changes in buyer preferences led to especially strong demand in the suburbs.

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2. Q4 housing trends

Just like with mortgages, our readers also wanted to know what to expect in the housing market as 2020 came to a close. We predicted ongoing strong demand and rising prices, spurred on by low mortgage rates and tight supply. Experts anticipate these trends will hold early in 2021, but may begin to taper off later in the year.

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3. Real estate price gains

Increasing property prices were a major trend for 2020, and in some places those prices significantly outpaced wage gains. The result was that in some locations, people were priced out of the market and couldn’t take advantage of the low mortgage rates that were partly responsible for the rise in home values.

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4. Bidding wars break out for homes

Strong demand and limited housing supply resulted in a seller’s market in much of the country for 2020. The result was heavy competition among buyers, which led to bidding wars in many sales.

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5. Biden’s housing policy

Any time the administration changes in Washington, people want to know what new policies will mean for their lives. Incoming president Joe Biden has proposed a new tax credit for first-time homebuyers and has promised a renewed focus on racial equity in real estate.

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