5 Tips For Getting a Mortgage in Today’s Housing Market

You want to beat the rising cost of homes and increasing interest rates by buying a home soon — but are you going to be able to get a mortgage?


The latest Case-Shiller housing data shows prices have gone up a little over 12% in just a year, and the National Association of Realtors’ latest numbers are even more optimistic, showing a nearly 14% year-over-year increase. Meanwhile, the rate for a 30-year mortgage has shot up by more than a percentage point in the past three months and is now hovering a bit over 4.5%.

Of course, those home prices haven’t rebounded to anything close to their pre-recession peak in most markets, and interest rates are still low by historical standards, so if you’re thinking of buying a home sometime in the future, doing so sooner rather than later might make economic sense.

The “but” here is that getting a mortgage, though easier than it was a couple of years ago, is still a challenge for many Americans. Data from the Ellie Mae Origination Insight Report shows that in July, the average mortgage applicant approved for a conventional loan had a FICO score of 759. Meanwhile, even the ones who applied and were rejected had FICO scores averaging 726. This is actually an improvement over last year, when borrowers had an average FICO score of 763. But the days of waltzing into a bank with a 640 FICO score and getting pre-approved on the spot are over.

(MORE: Housing Report: Tight Inventory, Still-Rising Prices)

As a result, about a third of home purchases are being made by people — investors, foreign buyers, or wealthy Americans — who just plunk down cash for a house. That’s great if you happen to have $213,500 — the average amount of an existing-home sale in July, according to the National Association of Realtors — laying around, but if you don’t, here are some tips on how to give yourself the best shot at getting a mortgage.

Improve your credit score. ”Credit is getting a bit looser recently, but even people with high credit scores are being denied loans,” says Jed Kolko, economist at real estate site Trulia.com, an observation that’s borne out by that Ellie Mae data. Order your credit report from annualcreditreport.com so you know what you’re dealing with, especially if you’ve never checked your credit before. Getting any mistakes corrected should be your first order of business. After that, look to lower your utilization ratio — the percentage of your available credit you’ve used at any given time. The typical rule of thumb is to keep it under 30%, but lower is better.

continue reading »

More News