Open Book: Alison Rogers on how the real estate market has changed, and what you can do about it


Welcome to WalletPop's new book club, where we will have an author-in-residence to give us a peek into a new book and be on hand all month to answer reader questions. Our inaugural writer is real estate expert Alison Rogers, who was the founding editor of the New York Post real estate section and a licensed real estate broker. The following is a Q&A with her about her book,
Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, which was called "must reading" by the Wall Street Journal and a "Witty bunch of horror and success stories mixed with real advice for other Realtor newbies" by Newsweek.

ZB: How has the home buying process changed since the collapse of the credit-driven bubble? Since your book came out?

AR: My book came out in June of last year, and the credit crunch started that August. Suddenly lenders wanted larger down payments and higher credit scores. I even had one lender who had approved a client of mine do everything they could not to make the loan -- the lender asked for a second appraisal, changed the loan terms, even funded the loan late. We closed anyway, because I'm kind of (cough) persistent, but there's no question it's tougher now.

On the other hand, in some areas of the country first-time buyers have more to chose from now. And most homeowners are going to be owners, of some home or another, for decades, so getting away from the whole carnival-barker "ACT NOW!" mentality is probably good for them. It's okay, first-time buyers, to take time to shop around.

My book was also very conservative in terms of how much I advised people to borrow -- I stand by the rule-of-thumb that you can carry a loan amount of two to three times your annual income. But at the height of the boom, lending standards were a lot more relaxed than that. A few years ago, my mortgage debt was five times my income. I called the bank, they gave me the money.