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As real estate markets continue to sag, lenders are taking a harder look at borrowers before approving home-equity loans or credit lines, reports Changing Times, the Kiplinger Magazine. That continues a trend begun in late 1989, says Donald Grigley, chairman of the American Bankers Association's Consumer Credit Executive Committee.

Grigley's bank, Connecticut National Bank, in Hartford, recently tightened its criteria. Borrowers getting loans or credit lines of more than $100,000 can borrow only up to 70 percent of their home's value. That's down from 75 percent. The same thing is happening in other parts of the country.But you still shouldn't have much trouble getting a home-equity loan. Most people who ask for them are good credit risks, and lenders know that.

According to a recently released American Bankers Association survey of 1989 home-equity borrowing, consumers tend to be between 35 and 49 years old, members of a two-income household and homeowners for more than five years. They use the money most often for home improvements or debt consolidation.

Most banks offer home-equity lines at variable rates, with average amounts ranging from $22,000 to $38,000, according to the ABA study. On average, large banks charge slightly higher fees than smaller institutions. They also offer more "teaser," or discounted, interest rates for the first few months of the loan.