Homeownership ain't what it used to be

The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) The National Association of Realtors reports that 45% of first-time home buyers opted for 100% financing between July 2006 and June 2007. The median percentage that first-time buyers financed was 98%.

That's a far cry from the good ol' days of 20% down payments on 30-year fixed rate mortgage. If you want to go back even further, only 15-year mortgages existed. Of course the downside to that was obvious: the requirement of a well-stuffed savings account to make a down payment meant that home ownership was off limits to a huge chunk of America.

ARMs, pay-options, and no-money down loans made "homeownership" affordable for a record number of people -- and of course resulted in the current mess.