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Homebuyers’ Credit Scores Improving

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There have been numerous improvements in the economy and the housing market specifically in the last few years, and that is reflected in the type of credit ratings carried by potential homebuyers nationwide through the end of last year.

With the slowly improving economy and jobs numbers, many consumers are now finding themselves in better financial shape than they were in just a few years ago, and as a consequence some are now mulling big financial decisions such as a return to the housing market, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta based on information in the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act database. In fact, through the end of 2011, the median credit score of a potential borrower who filed a home loan application was up 40 points from the end of 2006, more or less when the housing bubble burst. Further, that was the highest point observed in the past 12 years.

Interestingly, this comes at the same time as borrowers seemed to be more honest about their financial standing, the report said. Prior to the housing meltdown, it was not uncommon for borrowers to intentionally inflate and misrepresent their actual incomes — and for banks to sign off on loan applications nonetheless. This was a major reason for the real estate crisis in the first place, as borrowers were granted home loans they couldn’t afford (often with banks knowing full well that this was the case), then eventually defaulted and were foreclosed upon.

“Comparing home-purchase borrower incomes reported in the HDMA data with income reported by homebuyers in household surveys suggests that incomes on mortgage applications were likely significantly overstated during the peak of the housing boom,” the Fed researchers said. “In more recent years, there is no evidence of overstated incomes.”

However, despite the improvements, many consumers also faced a continued problem obtaining approval for their loan applications, the report said. Though consumers’ median rating improved, the rate at which they were turned down for mortgages did not, holding steady from the 23 percent observed in 2010. Altogether, there were only 7.1 million mortgages approved last year, down 10 percent from 2010 and the lowest since 1995’s 6.2 million.

Consumers who are interested in buying a home may want to make sure their credit standing is as good as it possibly can be before applying, as many lenders say they will keep restrictions tight for some time.

Image: roger4336, via Flickr

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