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As prices rise, mortgage lenders are making it easier to buy a house ...

Home prices are rising across the country and mortgage rates, though still historically low, are up since the presidential election.

Simply put, buying a home isn’t easy, especially in high-cost metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles County, where the median price of a home hit $569,000 in June.

But changes in the mortgage industry are afoot, with the goal of loosening some of the strict standards established after the subprime crisis — rules some blame for impeding sales.

“The reality has sunk in that there are buyers out there who will be able to buy homes and make the mortgage payments,” said William E. Brown, the president of the National Assn. of Realtors. The industry is “trying to give them more options to buy a house.”

Government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are paving the way by rolling out new programs to encourage home ownership.

The companies, with their congressional mandate to promote home ownership, don’t originate loans, but purchase mortgages from lenders to keep the market moving. And any changes they make in the underwriting standards for the loans they buy can have a big effect.

Fannie Mae raises debt-to-income ratio ceiling for mortgages ...

In the housing bubble, just about anyone who could apply for a mortgage was able to get one. 

A decade after the crash, the largest lenders are loosening their standards again to make housing more accessible to first-time buyers. 

Fannie Mae, the largest source of US mortgages, is making it a little easier for people with all kinds of existing debt — including student loans — to qualify for mortgages. The change will kick in on July 29 when the debt-to-income ratio (DTI), a measure of a borrower's capacity to make payments, rises to 50% from the current 45%. 

To understand what that looks like, let's say a household earns $5,000 a month and makes monthly debt payments totaling $2,250. Its DTI, debt payments divided by income and expressed as a percentage, is 45%. That's right at the current ceiling, and a lower DTI would be better.

But when the ceiling is raised, a second household with the same income that spends $2,500 on debt payments would have a DTI of 50% and be just as qualified. The $250 extra spent monthly on paying down debt would be less of a drag on their application.

When refinancing a home mortgage, is it usually best to go through a lender's national center or locally?

I am interested in refinancing my home mortgage. My mortgage lender has a number of local mortgage offices as well as a national call center through which I could proceed with the refinancing.


I would simply call the national number. If they have a program for some sort of streamline refinance that would be the best way to go.

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