Loans are available, but there are new rules

The Federal Reserve cut its leading interest rate Wednesday, but the ripple effect that usually comes from such a cut isn't expected to help consumers soon. Banks continue to tighten their requirements for mortgages, car loans and in-store financing. Gone -- perhaps for good -- are the days of no down payment and 100 percent financing.

Instead, lenders want to see verification of income, a good credit score and a down payment.

However, that's not to say those loans are impossible to get.

"There's this misperception in the marketplace that nobody can get a loan," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for financial Web site "Loans are being closed every single day. It's just that the rules of the road have changed. ... We've gone back to more traditional lending principles."

For the past year and a half, lenders have been increasingly skittish about handing out cash.

The rate cut will help a little, in very specific areas. Interest rates should drop on adjustable-rate home equity lines of credit, which are tied to the prime interest rate. But mortgage rates and car loan rates are not tied to the Fed's prime rate, and therefore the cut has little effect on how those loans are being treated.

It will be awhile before the Fed's action has much impact, particularly for home buyers who have been finding it more difficult to acquire financing for months.

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