First-time home buyers have plenty of ducks to align in a row, from assessing credit to conducting a home inspection. The process can be complex, intimidating and extensive. But there's no way to know how you'll fare if you don't even attempt to participate.
A recent survey from loanDepot revealed that a startling 46 percent of prospective buyers have either put off or abandoned their home searches due to fear of rejection during the mortgage loan process. And while post-recession standards for credit approval have indeed tightened, there are plenty of opportunities for buyers - even those without perfect credit.
Doubts without due diligence
There seems to still be a lot of demand for the relatively limited residential inventory available throughout the national market. However, the survey found that more than half - 56 percent - of first-timers who would like to purchase a home within the next two years are reticent because they're doubtful they will qualify for a loan. And those fears of rejection don't just permeate the renting population: Thirty percent of those who already own a home reported that their plans for buying again are hindered by their own concerns about credit approval.
Yet the majority of Americans whose home buying plans are theoretically foiled by tight approval standards aren't actually sure they would be denied - mostly because they haven't looked into it. Of the 71 percent of survey participants who expressed their desire to finance a home purchase, 89 percent admitted that they have not taken steps to see whether they would be approved. Therefore, even as fear of disqualification remains the No. 1 disincentive among hesitant house hunters, a massive segment of that surveyed subset doesn't actually know they would be denied.
"We're well into this year's home buying season and too many potential buyers and sellers are sitting on the sidelines because they're afraid they can't qualify for a home loan before they've looked into it," said Dave Norris, president and COO of loanDepot.
Norris conceded that post-recession standards for mortgage approval are indeed stricter, but the market's sustainability is dependent upon the emergence of a new wave of buyers. Moreover, that wave can't simply assume that they're unqualified when many of them are not even aware of the standards upon which they would be approved or rejected.
"While market and regulatory conditions have made it harder for many borrowers to secure a loan, consumer lending is beginning to loosen up for mortgage borrowers, including those with less than perfect credit," Norris added. "Potential buyers are forfeiting their dreams of homeownership before they find out what financing options are available to them. It's never been easier than it is today to go online and research your options on a site like loanDepot. They may be better than most people think."
Sustainability relies on a natural transition
Of survey respondents who seek to buy a home in the next couple of years, 53 percent said they felt it is harder to get a loan today than it was in past years. That's true, to an extent, as evidenced by the fact that the average credit score for home purchase loans in 2013 was 750, up a full 50 points from 10 years earlier. But there are a variety of avenues for securing home loan financing, including government options and programs specifically designed for first-time buyers.
Credit cleanup is still necessary for those whose history is a little more patchy. But once that process is complete, there's no harm in exploring what sort of loan you might be approved for as a first-time house hunter. As Norris suggested, you may be surprised what options are feasible. Once you're sure, you can get on with the process of viewing homes, picking one that meets your budget and preferences and ensures your comfort and happiness for years to come.