1. Looser Mortgage Credit

After years of hyper-cautious lending, more mortgage lenders are starting to relax credit and underwriting requirements

The new policies were aimed at clearing up confusion about when lenders must buy back loans that go sour. “I’ve been told with absolute confidence that some lenders are lifting almost all of their overlays,” David Stevens, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, told the Wall Street Journal.

  1. Lower Down Payments

You can now get a conventional loan with just 3 percent down. That lower benchmark, coupled with loosening credit standards, will likely help more first-time buyers enter the market.

FHA loans currently feature a 3.5 percent down payment requirement, and the accompanying mortgage insurance premiums have gone down

Plus there is still grant money available and the Utah Housing program to achieve 100% financing

  1. Cooling Home Prices

Some housing markets are still hotter than others. But the overall pace of housing price growth has slowed considerably. Freddie Mac’s housing price index soared 10 percent from September 2012 through September 2013.

Increases in housing inventory may also help to push down prices in some places.

  1. Rates Still Low

Heading into 2014, most economists and housing wonks expected mortgage rates to top 5 percent by year’s end.

Last week, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage didn’t even top 4 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly lender survey. The 3.89 percent average rate marked an 18-month low.

A host of economic and geopolitical factors combined to keep rates lower than anticipated this year. They’re almost certainly going to rise in 2015, maybe even into that long-predicted 5 percent range, but they’ll still remain far below historical averages.