The standards used to determine whether or not a borrower is approved for a mortgage aren't fixed. There are times when they tighten and times when they loosen. Because of this, the Mortgage Bankers Association tracks credit availability each month in order to measure how easy or difficult it is for borrowers to get a mortgage. Any increase in their index indicates that credit has become more available, while a decline means standards have tightened. In December, the overall index rose 0.8 percent, pushing it to its highest level since May 2021. Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said standards have loosened due to current market challenges. “December's growth was driven by more ARM and lower credit score loan programs, which was likely due to a combination of the rising rate environment and affordability challenges,” Kan said. “Lenders expanded offerings to qualified borrowers who were the most impacted by these market conditions.” Despite the improvement, credit availability is still 30 percent lower than its pre-pandemic level.