Easier for first-time buyers to obtain mortgages..

Financing

In recent months, standards on debt-to-income ratios, minimum down payments and student loan debt have been made less stringent. Fannie Mae and fellow mega-investor Freddie Mac — which are key to the mortgage market because they set the guidelines and buy vast quantities of the mortgages originated by banks and mortgage companies — have taken steps to accommodate a wider swath of home buyers.

Debt-to-income changes are at the top of the list. Under previous rules, your total monthly debt load could not exceed 45 percent of your monthly household gross income. Under the new rules, your total monthly debt can now go to 50 percent. With Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, you can push it even higher — to 55 percent or 56 percent — provided that other aspects of your application are strong.