There may have never been a better time to buy a home than right now. Earlier this month, interest rates dropped again -- the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.79% from 4.93%, according to -- and there is still plenty of inventory, keeping home prices relatively low in our area.

Those positive factors, however, are often offset by tighter lending standards, causing many to shy away from applying for a mortgage. As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, however, I have learned that it really boils down to four main factors that will impact a lender's decision:

  • Your ability to make a downpayment - usually between 3% and 20% of the purchase price -- of course, the larger the downpayment, the better your odds of securing the mortgage.
  • Two years of steady employment - at the same job or in the same field.
  • Good (but not necessarily perfect) credit score - these days, around 660 may do it.
  • Monthly income between two and three times the estimated monthly mortgage payment.

I have had many clients, however, who have qualified for a mortgage without completely meeting the above criteria ... so don't rule yourself out too soon. There are several other steps you can take to secure a mortgage, such as these ideas from BusinessWeek:

  • Meet with a lender anyway. You may find out that you qualify after all, and if not, the lender can tell you exactly which areas to focus on in order to qualify in the near future.
  • Ask your real estate agent if they work with a particular lender or mortgage broker. An experienced agent works with many lenders and may even offer in-house mortgage services.
  • Get a co-signer. This isn't easy, because if you default on a loan, the co-signer will be responsible for paying it. But if you know someone with good credit who has great faith in your ability to pay, a co-signer could be a workable option.
  • Plan for the future. If it turns out you cannot qualify for a home loan right now, have your real estate agent help you map out a plan for improving your credit qualifications over the coming months. If you make homeownership a serious goal, you should be able to qualify in the not-too-distant future.

For more information about applying for a mortgage, please feel free to contact me. And be sure to share this email with family and friends who might also be considering a home purchase -- this market is just too good to miss out on!