Interest rates fell to new lows in September. Low interest rates increase affordability and should make it easier for buyers to qualify. Yet stories of buyers waiting months to gain loan approval and home purchase transactions not closing on time due to lender's strict underwriting are all too common. Generally, it's more difficult to qualify now than it was a year ago- but don't be discouraged! Most conventional lenders require a 20-25 percent down payment. For the lowest interest rates, your credit scores need to be in the 700 range. You need to have verifiable income and cash reserves in addition to your down payment and closing costs.

Sometimes even more illogical reasons are used to turn down possible buyers. For instance, if you have investments -- even if they're performing well -- an underwriter might deny the mortgage because your portfolio doesn't fall into the underwriter's risk assessment model.

One couple was turned down because the husband had worked at his current job for less than a year -- even though he was making more money at the new job than he was before.

Generally, it's more difficult to qualify now than it was a year ago. Most conventional lenders require a 20-25 percent down payment. For the lowest interest rates, your credit scores need to be in the 700 range. You need to have verifiable income and cash reserves in addition to your down payment and closing costs.

You could run into underwriting problems if you're self-employed, as W-2 income is much easier to verify. Other hurdles are lapses in employment and owning a lot of property. Some lenders won't lend to buyers who have more than three or four residential properties.

Lenders will review all consumer debt. To receive a fast approval, all loans in the borrower's name must be up to date and paid on time for a period of at least two years. The total amount of debt will be factored against a consumer's income to calculate a debt-to-in come ratio. If your debt exceeds 40 percent your monthly gross income, your chances for a loan approval will decrease.

If you're buying a new home before selling your current home, you'll need to have 30 percent equity in your current home. This needs to be verified by the lender's appraiser. Also, the lender will want to see a copy of the cashed check from the tenant for the first month's rent to verify rental income if needed to qualify.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: As soon as you're serious about buying a home, find the best mortgage broker or loan agent you can to assist you. Don't make your selection based on interest rates alone. A good track record counts for a lot.

Closing the deal should be your primary goal. If you have to pay 0.25 percent more to assure your transaction closes on time and that you're not turned down at the last minute, it's worth it.

Be candid with your loan professional about anything in your financial picture that might impact loan qualification. A good loan agent or broker will be able to assess your financial situation and anticipate what you'll need to do to satisfy the underwriter.

Be aware that appraisal issues can impact your loan approval. For example, if a previous owner added square footage without a building permit, the additional square footage probably won't be included as livable square feet.

APPRAISAL: Lenders want to make sure that a home is worth what they are lending to a consumer so that they are not making a loan that is "upside down." Most lenders will require an independent appraisal as part of the mortgage approval process. If the appraisal doesn't equal at least the loan amount, the consumer will either have to pay the difference in cash, have the seller agree to sell the home for the appraised value or walk away from the transaction.

As of Oct. 1, the conforming jumbo mortgage limit for expensive housing markets like New York City and San Francisco dropped from $729,750 to $625,500. In some cases, conforming jumbo lenders have moved into the market to pick up some slack. You can expect to pay about 0.25 percent more for a 30-year fixed-rate conventional jumbo loan, in some cases. However, today's lower interest rates will help boost affordability.

There are more jumbo financing options available now. Adjustable-rate mortgages that are fixed for 10 years and then revert to an adjustable have a starting rate about 0.25 percent less than a 30-year fixed jumbo. A five-year fixed starts about 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent lower, but is riskier.

When applying for a home loan, it is important that you inform your loan officer of any changes to your situation, as it can affect a home loan approval. Not communicating things to your loan officer can mean a cancellation of your loan up to the day and time of closing.

THE CLOSING: Because of the risk factor, the lender may want you to have a large cash reserve. Your retirement account counts toward this.

To access all the Incline Village and Lakeshore Realty listings please click here. You can also contact us by email or call us at 775-831-7000. If you are in Incline Village, please visit us at 954 Lakeshore Blvd. Incline Village, NV 89451.