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The Mortgage Bankers Association reported recently that mortgage applications decreased according to their weekly survey (ending 6/18/10). However, some banks are hiring mortgage lenders—a sign that banks are optimistic that requests for housing loans will increase.

J.P. Morgan Chase is planning to hire 1,200 loan officers, according to CNNMoney.com. Christine Holevas, a spokesperson for the bank said, "We may not be inundated with applications tomorrow, but we are confident the need will be there." Despite any slight downturns, expected increases in the mortgage business are estimated to go from $725 billion in 2010 to $916 billion by 2013, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

If you're looking to get a home loan here are a few things you should consider. If you're self-employed the rules have changed considerably and not just for mortgages but also personal loans too. Some lending institutions are now requiring self-employed borrowers to provide documentation from assets to income and the documented income is then checked with IRS records. "It used to be nobody checked your IRS records," says one source in the mortgage industry who agreed to be interviewed about the inside changes but could not be named.

Another big change has to do with what borrowers may have done in the past. "When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac discover loans where the borrowers misrepresented their income, the agencies are requiring the lenders to repurchase the loan from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In turn the lenders then have the option to go after the borrowers in the form of foreclosure—even if the loan is not delinquent," says the source. There's no statute of limitation for fraud. The source says, normally, if the loan is current, they won't pursue the borrower. One major lending institution hired a company to go through all its stated-income loans looking to see if there was fraud. "At first they started with all the delinquent loans and then they moved into performing loans. Then they started requiring lenders to buy back all these loans which put lenders out of business. That closed down some shops," the industry expert told me.

The problem that many self-employed borrowers have today is that they need to be able to show that their business is legitimate in order to get the loan. The typical documentation includes, but is not limited to, a Web site, CPA letter, 411 listing, and business license. And if you're not self-employed, the rules for loans are tight as well—bigger down payments and better documentation are a must. While some lenders will allow as little as 5 percent down, most are looking for more than that. Everything you submit to a lender is now being double-checked.

Doing your part to make sure that your finances are in order prior to applying for a loan ensures a smoother process. Here are just a few helpful tips:

  1. Make no major purchases such as a car prior to applying for a loan
  2. Have complete documentation of your income
  3. Check and clean up your credit before attempting to borrow
  4. Reduce the number of outstanding credit options: close unused credit cards
  5. Remain current on all your loans

For more information on protecting yourself when applying for a loan, read my column: Don't Get Caught In Mortgage Fraud ( Insulation Floors over Unheated Areas, Ventilation Systems Air Vapor Barriers (Vapor Retarders), Venting Roofs ).

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