We've all heard the message: Buy a home now to take advantage of record affordability.

But in reality, a tighter lending environment is eroding the gains that come with record-low rates and falling home prices, according to a new report from Andrew Davidson & Co.

"The main hurdle today in stopping home prices from quickly growing is high down-payment costs," said Alexander Levin of the New York-based mortgage consulting firm.

There's a lot more to getting a mortgage than during the height of the housing bubble. Lenders not only want bigger down payments, they also require proof of income and higher credit scores from borrowers. And those with weak credit are now penalized in the way of a higher mortgage rates.

This contradicts the message of various Realtors' groups, which have tried to stir buyers by reminding them that housing affordability is at an all-time high.

"For those with good credit, we've never seen better housing affordability conditions or market opportunities than we see at present," said Moe Veissi, president of the National Association of Realtors and broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc. in Miami. Veissi noted that home sales would be more robust if lending standards were more relaxed.

"Although home prices are stabilizing and sales are rising, some buyers still have to jump through a lot of hoops to convince a lender that they are creditworthy, even for a mortgage that would be well within their means. This is especially true for self-employed buyers."

Such affordability indicators take into consideration mortgage rates, household income and home prices. Mortgage rates have fallen to record lows in the past several weeks, and home prices are at a 10-year low.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376