5 New Barriers To Getting A Mortgage (© Radius Images/Jupiterimages)

© Radius Images/Jupiterimages

Are you having trouble getting approved for a mortgage? Ever since the housing bubble burst, lenders have been subjecting mortgage and refinance applicants to stricter criteria. Here are five reasons why people are finding it more difficult to get approved these days.

1. Lender paranoia
Mortgage lenders naturally want to avoid repeating mistakes, so it's not surprising that they would look more closely at applicants' financial situations. But changes in the secondary mortgage market have made them extra cautious.

Greg Cook, a licensed California real-estate broker and mortgage banker, says that it used to be easy for lenders to get their loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (Bing: Find an FHA lender). Only in the case of fraud would these organizations require lenders to repurchase a mortgage.

"Now, if FHA feels the lender didn't follow guidelines, (it) can refuse to insure and the lender has to pony up the cash to replace the funds on (its) warehouse line," Cook says. "Multiple buybacks can bankrupt a small lender."

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With lenders facing greater responsibility for the loans they originate, they have no choice but to be extremely cautious in approving borrowers.

2. Restrictions on eligible income
Do you earn income from a second job? While this money might be significant to you, providing some real breathing room in your monthly budget and stability in your finances, lenders might not care.

"Income from a second job is generally not allowed, unless it has been derived from the same source for 12 months or within the same exact field for 24 months without any more than a 30-day interruption," says Wendy Hooper, an Orange County, Calif., real-estate agent. "And it is usually not allowed at all if it is not documented on a W-2."

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Unfortunately, many people receive the income from their second job in cash. Even if you deposit the cash in your bank account and declare the extra income on your W-2, lenders may not be willing to consider this income.

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"Lenders are now requiring all bank deposits that are not direct-deposit payroll be verified," Cook says. "In our previous life, if the borrower's income supported deposits ... explanations weren't required. Because it's virtually impossible to verify cash deposits, loans are being denied."

3. Tighter income-verification standards
Lenders will now rigorously scrutinize any income that borrowers want to be considered in their ability to repay a loan. There are no stated-income or low-documentation loans for most borrowers anymore, which is bad news for self-employed borrowers.

But they aren't the only ones having trouble. Lenders' fears about cash deposits mean that people who work in an industry where being paid in cash is common, such as the restaurant business, might have trouble getting approved.

People who are expecting to have children should also proceed with caution, as a New York Times article pointed out.

Amy Tierce, a certified mortgage-planning specialist with Fairway Independent Mortgage in Needham, Mass., says that lenders are cautious because "often, babies are born and parents have a change of heart about working full time or working at all."

She says that borrowers on maternity leave will need to validate that they are on paid leave; borrowers not on paid leave can buy before the delivery while their income can be verified, buy when they are back at work or try to qualify on one partner's income.

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Tierce, who has been in the mortgage business for 20 years, explains, "Guidelines such as the one cited in The Times piece have been on the books forever." But in the past, buyers had more options to get around this guideline.