According to the Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center, mortgage lenders are becoming more flexible with riskier applicants. Their quarterly credit availability report found that they are lending to people with lower credit scores, higher debt-to-income ratios and smaller down payments.

The report finds that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Agriculture’s rural home loans are taking the highest risk levels since before the crash. In fact, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have steadily taken more risk since 2009. This is great news for potential home buyers, especially those with less than perfect credit scores.

“Significant space remains to safely expand the credit box,” Laurie Goodman, vice president of the Housing Finance Policy Center, says.

The current lender risk levels are very low and will still stay within the “reasonable lending standards.” Loan officers around the country have seen a creative side to the lending industry recently which gives the “credit-strained buyer” hope. John Meussner, executive loan officer with Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corp. in San Ramon, California, says he has seen a perfect example of this.

“Recently we saw one investor roll out a product offering up to $2 million in financing for FICO scores down to 600,” said Meussner.

The loan mentioned, will allow the borrower to have made a late payment on a mortgage within the past year and have major incidents such as foreclosure or bankruptcy. Many lenders will now take a score in the mid-500s with a small down payment. In the past, Fannie and Freddie have required a FICO score of around 750 to obtain a home loan.

The requirements might be a little less risky but lenders are still doing their homework on their potential borrowers. Paul Skeens, president of Colonial Mortgage Group in Waldorf, Maryland believes that the attention to documents in unbelievable detail has kept the market from seeing a lot of defaults.

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