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WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 26, 2010, 09:17 AM

Good credit score required for low mortgage rates

The average for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages has dropped to the lowest level in decades for the ninth time in 10 weeks. Many are rushing to take advantage of those low mortgage rates, but the truth is, it's not as easy to do as it used to be. The reason: Some say people in our area are paying for others' mistakes.

(WDAY TV) - It's cheaper to finance a home and easier to keep it. The average for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages has dropped to the lowest level in decades for the ninth time in 10 weeks. The average at 4.36 percent is down from 4.42 percent last week. That's the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971.

Also, financial counselors say programs to help people avoid foreclosure have broadened since the economic recession caused a surge of foreclosures.

“A lot of it is because they're starting to see what the real issues are and the issue is long term unemployment. People aren't being unemployed for just a few weeks. It is very difficult to find new employment.”

Many are rushing to take advantage of those low mortgage rates, but the truth is, it's not as easy to do as it used to be. The reason: Some say people in our area are paying for others' mistakes.

Checked your credit score lately? Local financial counselors say you need a 620 to get a loan, which is considered a "good" score. Previously, even people with poor scores could qualify. This is just one of many ways qualifying for a home mortgage has become more difficult.

This is Jessica's dream home and it's her dream time to purchase it.

“It is a great opportunity with good interest rates.”

But she had to spend the last year paying down debt and building up her credit score to even consider looking. Her bank initially told the Casselton teacher did not qualify for the 120 to 130-thousand dollar range. And now that she does, her lender reminds her…

“Have to remember that doesn't include cell phone bills and utilities.”

Local financial counselors say mortgage lenders across the country have gotten stricter after getting blamed for being at the root of the country's economic recession.

Josh: “All about the paper work.”

Now looking for not only a higher credit score, but more documentation of income like tax statements and several months worth of paychecks. Huffman says you also can't get an approval estimate as easily. New consumer protection rules make a bank pay part of the difference if an estimate is too off base, to prevent irresponsible lending. He says that can hurt your ability to compare different rates and find the best offer.

“The problem is it’s not our fault. Places where that kind of stuff was happening were in bigger cities where there was predatory lending. We didn't have that in our area.”

Regardless, it's an easier time for home seekers like Jessica to pay the mortgage, a more challenging time to get it. Despite more work that goes into it, Huffman says the process to buy a home is not necessarily taking longer. It's still about two months to close.

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