A few years back, buyers with less-than-pristine credit or little downpayments for a mortgage had only one viable route: the Federal Housing Administration, which offered cheap loans with little downpayments required. 

That was then. This is now:

"FHA loans really used to be a first option for homebuyers with a low down payment," says Scott Schang, a branch manager for Broadview Mortgage Katella in Orange, Calif. "Now, I see people doing them because they have to and not because it's their first option."

The FHA allows buyers to get a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent. The underwriting requirements to qualify for an FHA loan generally are less stringent than for conventional loans. But after the recent change and the numerous fee increases, FHA loans are generally not a borrower's best mortgage option, Schang says.

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