Mortgage tracker Ellie Mae reports that the average FICO score for a closed home loan was 732 in September -- down from 750 a year ago -- and almost a third of closed loans had FICO scores under 700, compared to just 17 percent a year ago.
The average down payment was 19 percent, compared with 22 percent a year ago.
"We continue to see things open up ever so slightly month by month," says Ellie Mae President Jonathan Corr. Mortgage experts say the standards to obtain home financing remain tight, but lenders are beginning to relax some restrictions as housing prices recover and rising interest rates curb refinance volume. For example, Wells Fargo has reduced non-conforming loan minimum down payments to 15 percent from 20 percent; and JPMorgan Chase has lowered down payment requirements in several states that were hit especially hard by foreclosures.