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The rapid growth in equity has been powered partly by post-recession gains in home-selling prices. Total homeowner mortgage debt outstanding has fallen steadily, and it is well below what it was in 2009.

Ed Fine’s recent rejection for a refinancing of his home loan wasn’t exactly like former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s. But there are enough similarities to raise questions about current tight mortgage market standards and how lenders scrutinize applicants’ incomes.

Thanks to strict federal rule changes in the wake of the housing bust, it can be tough to qualify for a loan.

Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needlessly preventing millions of African-Americans, Latinos and young consumers from qualifying for a loan because they don’t have a FICO credit score? Some critics say yes.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., would amend the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to require the national credit bureaus to delete most negative information within four years. But not everyone thinks this is a good idea.

Thanks to a policy switch made final last week, charging extra interest payments on loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration will soon be banned.

What nobody mentioned about the score, dubbed FICO Score 9, is that most homebuyers aren’t likely to see any direct benefit from it anytime soon, very possibly not for years.

Are mortgage lenders finally loosening up a little on their credit score requirements – opening the door to larger numbers of home purchasers this summer and fall? It depends on what type of loan you’re seeking.

To make a house more attractive to buyers as a financial proposition, sellers can offer to lower buyers’ long-term monthly mortgage expenses. The sellers achieve this by paying money upfront to the buyers’ lender in order to reduce the interest rate.

What keeps home buyers from qualifying for a mortgage? Tops on the list is their debt-to-income ratio, followed by their recent credit applications and their credit score.

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Kenneth Harney
Kenneth Harney, who lives in Washington, D.C., writes an award-winning column on housing and real estate.