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Some say the new rules are a breath of hope for former homeowners and for the housing market, which would benefit from a new pool of potential buyers.

“There are a large number of people who are going to fit these criteria,” says Chris Little, president of the Sacramento Association of REALTORS®. “For a lot of people, it could get them back in the game.”

Sooner is probably better for buyers, he says.

Despite strong upward pressure on home prices in the past year, they remain far below the peak of last decade’s bubble. Mortgage rates have risen from a low of less than 3.5 percent earlier this year to around 4.5 percent today but remain a bargain in historical terms.

Cash-paying investors have dropped out of the market as prices rise, leaving room for those with FHA loans and lower down payments to jump in after being virtually shut out for most of the past year. A growing supply of homes for sale is also helping to stabilize the market.

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