USDA Loans

USDA loans are zero-down-payment mortgages for rural homebuyers. They’re mainly for borrowers who prefer living in rural areas vs city and(or) urban areas. A USDA home loan is a zero down payment mortgage for eligible rural homebuyers. These loans are issued through the USDA loan program, also known as the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program, by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Qualifying for USDA Loans

Income limits to qualify for a home loan guarantee vary by location and depend on household size. To find the loan guarantee income limit for the county where you live, consult this USDA map and table.

USDA guaranteed home loans can fund only owner-occupied primary residences. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • U.S. citizenship (or permanent residency)

  • A monthly payment — including principal, interest, insurance and taxes — that’s 29% or less of your monthly income. Other monthly debt payments you make cannot exceed 41% of your income. However, the USDA will consider higher debt ratios if you have a credit score above 680.

  • Dependable income, typically for a minimum of 24 months

  • An acceptable credit history, with no accounts converted to collections within the last 12 months, among other criteria. If you can prove that your credit was affected by circumstances that were temporary or outside of your control, including a medical emergency, you may still qualify.

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FAQ’s on USDA Loans

The USDA Loan is a mortgage option available to qualified rural homebuyers. USDA loans are issued by USDA-approved lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Learn more with this complete guide to the USDA loan.

When you hear that the USDA loan is guaranteed, it is in reference to the fact that the USDA insures a portion of each loan in the event the borrower defaults on their home loan. This backing, or guarantee, is what gives lenders more confidence in homebuyers and the ability to extend favorable rates and terms.

No, first-time homebuyers and repeat homebuyers alike may use the USDA loan.

There are no maximum loan amount restrictions on USDA loans. An individual’s maximum loan amount is based upon their debts, income and ability to repay.

Closing costs vary by lender and location. With USDA loans, it is possible to use gift funds to pay for your closing costs. You will need to ask your loan officer for a gift letter and provide proof of transfer to accompany your loan application.

Closing costs vary by lender and location. With USDA loans, it is possible to use gift funds to pay for your closing costs. You will need to ask your loan officer for a gift letter and provide proof of transfer to accompany your loan application.

If you’re still working, you must establish employment to be eligible for the USDA loan, and most lenders will require a minimum of two years of steady employment. If you are self-employed, you are eligible, but will be required to provide two years of federal tax returns to verify your income. Retirees may be able to obtain a USDA loan provided they have sufficient stable income.

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