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“If the issue is that they have income from a spouse who can’t go on the loan because of a bad credit score, then they may be able to add a non-occupant co-signer who can boost the income level,” Mr. Benner said.

Borrowers who are refinancing sometimes can bring cash to the settlement to reduce their loan balance, enabling them to reduce the debt-to-income ratio and qualify for a new mortgage.

Unemployment issues also have caused problems for mortgage applicants because lenders review two years of job history for each applicant.

“An employment gap may not be as much of a problem as long as the debt-to-income ratio and credit scores meet the guidelines,” Mr. Harshman said. “As long as someone has been back at work for six months and has the probability of continued employment, a period without a job should not be a problem.”

Mr. Mendelson said providing a letter of explanation about unemployment and how it was handled financially through unemployment benefits or savings usually is sufficient for both buyers and homeowners refinancing as long as they are otherwise qualified for a loan.

An obstacle for many homeowners who want to refinance is a low appraisal for the home that raises the borrower’s loan-to-value ratio above 80 percent. Conventional loans with less than 20 percent equity require private mortgage insurance, which could negate the savings from a lower interest rate.

Homeowners who have the means can pay down the principal balance on their loan to reduce their loan-to-value or can estimate what their payments will be with mortgage insurance. Mr. Benner said many lenders offer lender-paid mortgage insurance, which would require a slightly higher interest rate on the loan. Another option his company offers to borrowers with excellent credit is a first and second mortgage for up to 90 percent of the home value.

“Lenders have different requirements and different loan products, so consumers should never quit after one turndown for a loan,” Mr. Benner said. “We work with a lot of people who have been turned away by larger banks that have stricter guidelines.

“Of course, you have to use common sense. If you are six months out of a foreclosure or you are self-employed and don’t report any income on your taxes, or your FICO score is in the low 500s, you may have to work out a plan before you can qualify.”

Even in extreme cases, though, lenders say “time heals all wounds,” and borrowers who strive to correct their financial problems eventually can qualify for a mortgage.