Dian Hymer

The first thing to understand is that lenders are moving back to basics. No- and very low-down-payment mortgages are available only to buyers with high credit scores. This means no more 100 percent and 95 percent mortgages for subprime borrowers.

Lenders are also backing away from low-documentation and stated-income mortgages. Many lenders now require buyers to have a cash down payment, good credit and the ability to verify income.

For years, home buyers stretched the price they could pay by using adjustable-rate and interest-only mortgages. Not long ago, lenders qualified buyers for these loan products based on the lower initial rates and on interest-only payments. Now, borrowers must qualify based on the fully indexed rate and amortized payment. In other words, qualifying for a home mortgage is more difficult.