All I seem to hear about these days are financial bailouts and an ongoing "credit crisis." What does that mean if I want to buy a house?

All I seem to hear about these days are financial bailouts and an ongoing "credit crisis." What does that mean if I want to buy a house?

There is no question that our economy is going through the most difficult period in decades. The good news is that mortgage loans are still available.

Almost every kind of loan is available now that was available a year or two ago, with the exception of the "sub-prime" loans that triggered much of the current trouble within the financial sector.

Government-backed loans, like those available through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), are still intact, as are almost all of the conventional loan types available before the current financial crisis.

Even mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, subject of a temporary federal takeover, are continuing to make loans at a fast pace. Today as before, FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac makeup the majority of real estate loans in this country. All three are able to borrow at extremely low interest rates because the U.S. Treasury guarantees the loans.

Still, if you are shopping for a mortgage, there are a few changes of which you should be aware. For example, a borrower with a good credit history and stable employment used to be able to refinance a mortgage without proof of income. If you apply for the same loan today, you likely will be asked for documentation of income.

While zero-down mortgages may be more of a rarity, borrowers still can obtain an FHA-insured loan for only 3 percent down or a loan through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae for 5 percent down.

Although credit score requirements have also tightened, borrowers with scores in the 600s can still qualify for FHA loans at attractive interest rates.

The bottom line is that there are mortgage options today as there were before; it's just that lenders are being a little more careful when giving them out. What is available to you, of course, will depend on where you live, your personal credit record, income and borrowing history. Remember always to seek the advice of experts.

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Stephanie Green is an Area Sales Manager with Fifth Third Bank Mortgage. She welcomes the opportunity to take your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact her at 614-932-5489 or