If anyone wants to see easier credit, it would be a homebuilder that runs a mortgage banking shop.

But Larry Nicholson, president and chief executive of Ryland Group in Westlake Village, Calif., is pessimistic on this front. Ryland's mortgage unit made 4,000 loans last year with an average credit score of 736. Nicholson would like to see that figure drop to 690 this year, but says secondary market constraints and put-back risk make that unlikely to happen.

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