Finally, it seems, credit lending is starting to thaw. While standards are still high to qualify for a loan, lenders have been increasingly approving lower down payments than they have been in the past four years. This is excellent news for first-time homebuyers who may be good candidates for a loan, but lack the 20% down payment that had become more or less standard in recent years. Government-backed mortgage giant Fannie Mae is buying loans with as little as 3% down, but this type of loan would likely require private mortgage insurance (PMI). The shrinking role of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) is clearing the way for more private mortgage insurers and lenders to get back into the market. These new and continuously improving market conditions should help first time homebuyers, and buyers in general, come off of the sidelines heading into the traditionally busy Spring market.