• Don't discount self-employed borrowers right away when they tell you their income and tax filing status.
  • Lower credit borrowers now have access to loan products with lower interest rate options to help them qualify.
  • There is no longer the requirement for homebuyers to contribute to their down payment, closing costs or settlement costs -- all can come from a gift.

Homeownership has been on the decline in the U.S. for more than a decade. We're not just seeing an overall decline from 2004 through 2015, but the actual homeownership rate has shrunk every year during that span -- starting at 69.2 percent and dropping to 63.8 percent last year (from the U.S. Census Bureau). Although the subprime mortgage crisis occurred in the middle of that span, it certainly hasn't helped to make things easier for potential buyers. Banks are more cautious with lending, and a wave of former owners suffered foreclosures during the crisis, which limits their ability to gain access to new loans. Updates to Fannie Mae, including its new HomeReady program, aim to make mortgages accessible for those who would otherwise raise red flags with lenders. While a lender mig...