3 Keys to Mastering New Home Loan Hurdles

You can’t change interest rates or banks’ tight home lending. But there are ways to get loans.

You can’t change interest rates or banks’ tight home lending. But there are ways to get loans
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So it might require you to shop around. National Association of Realtors blogger Broderick Perkins writes on Realtor.com that even now, ahead of the new rules, it's normal to talk to a dozen lenders. "The mortgage hunt today is like finding your way through a maze," Perkins writes.

3. Before you go mortgage shopping, cut your debt. Maybe this should be Rule No. 1, given the toxic impact of too much debt in the post-crash era. Still, access to credit is a big, necessary component of the U.S. economic system. It just needs to be managed and considered in your overall financial plan.

"Everyone who wants to qualify for a mortgage should watch their debt," says Sam Khater, senior economist at housing data provider CoreLogic. "This is the time to get it down if it's out of line."

A few common debt-related reminders might help. You should know that any credit card application will show up almost immediately on your credit report, even if you plan to cancel the card quickly. Resist the big discount that friendly salespeople offer if you sign up for a store credit card. The same goes for that incredibly low monthly car lease. It will be treated as debt and can have a big credit impact, depending on the car's total value. Student loans also count toward the debt cap.

[See: 13 Lucky Events That Call For a Financial Plan.]

Home refinancings will be harder for many homeowners who lost equity in the housing crash. This usually means they'll borrow more for a second mortgage, and it will sometimes put them over the 43 percent lending cap.

Easy re-fi cash is hard to resist. Yes, you can lower your monthly payments when rates go down, but second mortgages do not always make sense. They extend the life of your home loan and can sharply reduce the amount of equity you pay off each month.

The new rules all underline the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's mantra that people should not be set up to fail by going too deeply into debt. It's mostly common sense. Stretching your budget to get into a dream house can be a nightmare. Try to consider it as part of a total financial plan that makes sense, advisors say. And if the mortgage doesn't fit it, you shouldn't get it.