Financial Advice

Is It Actually More Difficult to Get a Mortgage This Year?

Since 2012, it has gotten significantly easier to get a mortgage, but credit tightened up a bit at the beginning of the year, to the point that it has been no easier to get a mortgage this year than last, according to The Zillow Mortgage Access Index.

The index accounts for factors like the credit scores and debt-to-income ratios of mortgage borrowers to gauge the risk tolerance of lenders. Data from the first quarter of 2015 indicates that creditors are exercising caution after steadily easing mortgage underwriting requirements for a few years. A low number on the index indicates tight credit, and in the first quarter of 2015, the index was at 65, falling from a post-2007 high of 71.5 in September 2014. At the end of 2014, the index was at 69.4.

Despite the recent fluctuations in the index, mortgage availability is much better than it was just two years ago. More than 60% of housing experts and economists surveyed by Zillow earlier this summer said they expect mortgage availability to loosen.

Aspiring homeowners can’t control loan availability or housing prices, but they can focus on what they bring to the table when buying a home. When mortgage credit is tight, a higher credit score and down payment can make you more appealing to a lender, not to mention how much money good credit can save you over the life of your loan (this lifetime cost of debt calculator can give you an idea of how much money a good credit score can save you in your lifetime).

If you’re considering buying a home in the near future, take a look at your credit scores to see where you stand. (You can get a free credit score on every 30 days.) It’s a good idea to go into the process with the best credit score you can manage, and so you may want to look for ways to improve your credit in the short term, like paying off debt or lowering your credit card balances. Consult your mortgage lender to determine your best course of action.

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This article by Christine DiGangi was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.