Will I still be able to buy a house

With the news full of stories about the collapse of lenders that sell mortgages to people with less-than-perfect credit, the survivors are clamping down, leaving first-time homebuyers to wonder, "Will I still be able to buy a house?" People with loans nearing the end of low-interest introductory periods are asking themselves, "Can I qualify for a refinance I can afford?"
The short answer, of course, is that it depends.
"The prime people will still be able to get loans. You'll just have to have a down payment, documentation and a higher credit rating, (although) I think there will be even some tightening in the prime," says Christopher Cagan, director of research and analytics for First American Real Estate Solutions in Santa Ana, Calif.
"It's the marginal people going for the subprime, low-doc loans who'll feel the change," he says. "They're going to be asked, 'Where's your documentation? Let me check that appraisal. What's your income?' "
In a nutshell, here's what the changes are likely to mean to you:
With a FICO score roughly above 620 and a stable income, you're likely to be a "prime" customer, although factors like other debt you're carrying and how much you want to borrow also enter the equation. Experts differ on whether they expect lenders to get fussier in evaluating customers for prime loans. Most say that with a strong record of paying bills on time, a documented, steady income and a loan request no bigger than 80% of the value of a property, you should be able to borrow easily and at a low rate. In fact, if you are in the prime category, now is a great time to refinance, since 30-year fixed rates are dropping to 6%, says Mike Fratantoni, senior economist with the Mortgage Bankers Association.
If your FICO score is below 620, you may still get a loan, but it's likely to be an expensive subprime product.