The stabilization of the housing market has homebuyers once again itching to move up.
While some parts of the country are recovering at a greater pace, the market as a whole has stopped its free fall, experts say.
Since the recovery is in its infancy, home prices and interest rates are still at historic lows, but upward movement is expected for both in the coming year.
Shopping for a mortgage will require some legwork on the part of consumers and fixing up any credit "bumps" is a good first step.
"Do you need perfect credit? The answer is no," said Malcolm MacEwen, president and chief operating office for Coldwell Banker's Arizona region. "Do you need good credit? Yes."
A credit score of at least 700 is required for most lenders.
"If your score is low and peppered with late payments, you'll have a harder time qualifying for a loan or, if you do qualify, it will be more expensive," he said. "The money is there, but the bar is set very high."
The majority of lenders are making loans to sell them, not hang onto them, so they're hesitant to take a risk, MacEwen said.
When shopping around for a mortgage rate, consumers need to take into account associated fees and costs.
Most lenders offer tools that allow borrowers to enter basic information and get a good idea on the potential costs.
When searching for a lender, a national realtors group suggests you consider:
• Lender size: Small lenders and large institutional lenders both have pros and cons to offer in regard to mortgage loans and determining which one is better can be simple after some research and analysis.
• Customer service: Major lenders have customer service training, and monitor each phone call for excellent service. Smaller lenders may not have the same financial resources to train staff, yet the personal touch of remembering your name and home location may be the kind of service you are seeking.
• Reputation: Verify with the Chamber of Commerce and other services that your mortgage lender is in good standing. Ask friends and family whom they have a mortgage with and if they are happy with the service they receive on their mortgage loan. View the lender's website for their posted mission statement on service and possible customer service awards.
• For help with fixing credit, visit consumercredit.com to find help in your area.