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What Is A USDA Loan? | Unlocking Homeownership in Rural Areas

Updated: Feb 20

What Is A USDA Loan?

If you're dreaming of owning a home but struggling to save for a down payment, you may find the USDA loan program as your potential lifesaver. Hailing from the U.S Department of Agriculture, this government-backed mortgage is designed to make homeownership more accessible in rural areas.

This article will guide you through all aspects of USDA loans - from understanding what they are and who qualifies, to how they stack up against conventional mortgages. Let's unlock doors to homeownership together!

Key Takeaways

A USDA loan is a type of mortgage program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help individuals and families buy homes in eligible rural areas.

There are two main types of USDA loans: the USDA Streamlined-Assist Refinance loan for current borrowers, and the USDA Rural Development Mortgage program loan for buying homes in rural areas.

To qualify for a USDA loan, you must meet residency requirements, live in an eligible rural area, have income within set limits, and have a credit score of at least 640.

USDA loans offer advantages over conventional loans such as no down payment requirement, lower guarantee fees, and more flexible appraisal requirements.

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What Is a USDA Loan?

What Is a USDA Loan?

A USDA loan is a mortgage loan program offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that is designed to help individuals and families buy homes in eligible rural areas.

There are different types of USDA loans available, each with their own eligibility requirements and benefits.

Overview of USDA loan program

The USDA loan program is made to help people buy homes. It gives low-interest rates and needs no down payment. This program helps home buyers in rural areas. You must meet income rules to get a mortgage from the USDA Rural Development.

The loan comes from the US government, so you need at least a credit score of 640. You also have to be a US citizen or live here for good to use this program.

Types of USDA loans

There are two main types of USDA loans. The first one is the USDA Streamlined-Assist Refinance loan. This loan helps people who already have a USDA Rural Development Mortgage program loan.

It lets them get lower interest rates or better loan terms.

The second type is the USDA Rural Development Mortgage program loan. This one helps people buy homes in rural areas. To get this kind of mortgage, you need a credit score of at least 640.

Some lenders may ask for even higher scores though.

It's also important to use the right tools to find out if your home falls under these loans' rules. You can use the USDA LOOK-UP TOOL to see if your house is in an area that fits with these programs.

Eligibility requirements

You need to meet certain rules to get a USDA loan. First, you must live in the home. You can't use this type of loan for a rental or other property. Only houses in rural areas are part of this program.

Your income should not be more than what is set by the USDA for your area. Also, if you have family living with you, they can apply too if they share ownership of the house with you.

Finally, good payment history on past loans helps but credit score is not very important.

How Do USDA Loans Compare to Conventional Loans?

How Do USDA Loans Compare to Conventional Loans?

USDA loans offer several advantages over conventional loans. They typically require a lower down payment and have lower guarantee fees. Additionally, USDA loans often have more flexible appraisal requirements.

Down payment

USDA loans require no down payment, which means you don't have to pay any money upfront when buying a home. This is different from conventional loans, where you typically need to put down a certain percentage of the purchase price, usually between 3% and 20%.

With USDA loans, you can finance the full loan amount without having to come up with a large sum of money for a down payment. This can make it easier for people who may not have enough savings for a traditional down payment to qualify for a home loan.

Guarantee fee

USDA loans may require a guarantee fee. This fee is a one-time payment made by the borrower to offset the risk to the lender. It's usually added to the total loan amount and included in the monthly mortgage payment.

The guarantee fee helps protect lenders in case of default, making it possible for more people to qualify for USDA loans. Remember, this fee is separate from other upfront costs like closing costs or down payments.

So if you're considering a USDA loan, make sure you factor in the guarantee fee when calculating your overall loan expenses.


Appraisals play a crucial role in the USDA loan process. An appraisal is an evaluation of the property's value conducted by a professional appraiser to ensure that it meets certain minimum standards set by the USDA.

The purpose of the appraisal is to protect both the lender and the borrower by ensuring that the property is worth at least as much as the loan amount. It also helps determine that there are no major issues or safety hazards with the property.

Appraisals help lenders make informed decisions about approving USDA loans and provide borrowers with confidence in their investment.

How to Qualify for a USDA Loan

How to Qualify for a USDA Loan

To qualify for a USDA loan, you must meet residency, location, income, and credit score requirements. Ensure to read more about the specific eligibility criteria and how to apply in this section.


To be eligible for a USDA loan, you must provide proof of residency. This means that you need to live in the property that you are purchasing as your primary residence. The loan cannot be used for investment purposes or to buy a second home.

The purpose of the USDA loan program is to help people who want to own a home in rural areas, so they require borrowers to actually live in these rural areas. Make sure you meet this residency requirement before applying for a USDA loan.


To qualify for a USDA loan, it's important that the property you want to buy is located in an eligible rural area. The USDA Rural Development Mortgage program aims to help low- and moderate-income families purchase affordable homes in these areas.

To determine if a property is eligible, you can use the LOOK-UP TOOL provided by the USDA. This tool will show you whether the property is located in an eligible area or not. Whether it's a single-family home, condo, or townhouse, the location of the property plays a crucial role in qualifying for a USDA loan.


Income plays a vital role in determining eligibility for a USDA loan. When applying for this type of loan, it's crucial to consider the income limits based on the size of your household and the location of the property.

These limits can vary from county to county and are adjusted annually. They are based on the median income for the area you live in. To qualify for a USDA loan, your income must not exceed these designated limits.

It's important to keep this factor in mind when considering whether you meet the requirements for obtaining a USDA loan.

Credit score

To qualify for a USDA loan, you need to have a minimum credit score of 640. However, if your credit score is lower than that, you may still be eligible, but you might have to provide additional requirements or documentation.

It's important to review and improve your credit history before applying for a USDA loan. Keep in mind that lenders may also consider other factors like income and creditworthiness when determining the loan amount.

Lastly, U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status is necessary to qualify for the USDA loan program.

The Bottom Line on USDA Loans

The Bottom Line on USDA Loans

USDA loans offer numerous benefits for those looking to buy a home in eligible rural areas. To apply, you'll need to find a lender and meet the residency, location, income, and credit score requirements.

Repayment options are flexible, making USDA loans an attractive option for many borrowers.

Benefits of USDA loans

USDA loans offer several benefits that make them a great option for homebuyers. One key benefit is that USDA loans require no down payment, which means borrowers can purchase a home without having to save up for a large upfront payment.

Additionally, these loans have competitive interest rates and flexible repayment options, making it easier for borrowers to manage their monthly payments. Another advantage of USDA loans is that they provide 100% financing, allowing borrowers to finance the full purchase price of their home without needing a down payment.

These loans are also available to low- to moderate-income borrowers, making homeownership more accessible. Lastly, USDA loans have relaxed credit score requirements, typically requiring a minimum score of 640, which opens up opportunities for more people to qualify for this type of loan.

How to apply

To apply for a USDA loan, you will need to follow a few steps. First, make sure you meet the eligibility requirements, such as having a credit score of at least 640 and being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Then, gather all the necessary documentation like proof of income, employment verification, and property information. Next, find a lender that offers USDA loans and begin the application process with them.

It's important to pre-qualify first to understand your affordability and monthly payments. Fill out all the required forms and provide any additional information requested by the lender.

Finding a lender

To obtain a USDA loan, you need to find a lender who offers this type of mortgage. Not all lenders participate in the USDA loan program, so it's important to do your research and find one that does.

You can start by visiting the USDA website, where they have a list of approved lenders. Additionally, you can contact local banks and credit unions to inquire about their USDA loan options.

Keep in mind that each lender may have different requirements and interest rates, so it's wise to compare multiple lenders before making a decision.

Repayment options

USDA loans offer flexible repayment options to make it more affordable for borrowers. One option is the fixed-rate mortgage, where your interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan.

Another option is the adjustable-rate mortgage, where your interest rate can change over time. Additionally, USDA loans have options for refinancing, such as streamline refinancing, which can help lower your monthly payments and reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

These repayment options give borrowers flexibility and affordability when paying back their USDA loan.

Types of USDA Loans and How They Work

Types of USDA Loans and How They Work

In this section, we will explore the types of USDA loans, including direct loan and USDA guaranteed loan options. We'll also delve into the guaranteed loan program and the section 502 direct loan program to give you a comprehensive understanding of how USDA loan work.

USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (USDA Section 502 Guaranteed Loan)

This program assists approved lenders in providing low- and moderate-income households the opportunity to own adequate, modest, decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings as their primary residence in eligible rural areas.

Eligible applicants may build, rehabilitate, improve, or relocate a dwelling in an eligible rural area with the help of this loan.

USDA Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program (USDA Section 502 Direct Loan)

This program assists low- and very-low-income applicants to obtain decent, safe, and sanitary housing in eligible rural areas by providing payment assistance to increase an applicant’s repayment ability.

The program also allows for the construction, repair, or relocation of a home.

USDA Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Loan (Section 504 Home Repair Program)

The Section 504 Home Repair program helps very-low-income homeowners in rural areas to repair, improve, or modernize their homes.

It also grants for the removal of health and safety hazards.

USDA Multi-Family Housing Loan Program

This program provides competitively priced financing for affordable multi-family rental housing for low-income, elderly, or disabled individuals and families in eligible rural areas.

USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program

While not a home loan, this program provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas.

It's aimed at enhancing the quality of life for rural residents.USDA Rural Land Loan

This lot loan program is designed to provide financing for the purchase and development of land in rural areas, supporting individuals, farmers, and business owners in making necessary improvements for farming, homesteading, or business operations.

USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Farm Loan Programs

The FSA offers programs like the Direct Farm Ownership Loan and the Guaranteed Farm Loan to provide access to credit for farmers and ranchers who are unable to secure loans from commercial lenders, allowing for the purchase of land among other purposes.

Applying for a USDA Home Loan: Eligibility and Household Income

When you decide to apply for a USDA home loan, it's crucial to understand the loan application process and USDA eligibility criteria. This section will guide you through the steps to get a USDA loan and discuss household income limitations. We'll also cover usda direct loan and home loan program specifics.

Comparing USDA Mortgage with FHA and VA Loans: Types of Home Loans

Here, we will compare USDA mortgage options with FHA loan and VA loan alternatives. We'll look at the pros and cons of each, focusing on single family housing programs and loan limits. We'll also discuss types of home loans and where USDA loans are available.

Financing and Repayment: USDA Loan Limits, Rates, and Rural Housing

This section will discuss the finance options for a home in a rural area and how to repay the loan. We'll cover loan limits, section 502 guaranteed loans, and rural development guaranteed housing loan program specifics. We'll also touch on rural housing and finance a home options.

Home Improvement and Repair Loans Under USDA: Programs and Eligibility

If you're interested in home improvement loans, this section is for you. We'll discuss repair loans, single family housing direct home loans, and how loans can be used for various purposes. We'll also cover single family housing guaranteed loan and family housing guaranteed loan program details.

FAQs: Addressing Common Questions About USDA Loans and More

In our final section, we'll address frequently asked questions like "How do loans work?", "What are loans issued by the USDA?", and "Where are USDA loans available?". We'll also discuss USDA also considerations, loans must meet certain criteria, and loans are only available in specific areas.



In conclusion, a USDA loan is a government-backed mortgage program that helps eligible homebuyers in rural areas. It offers benefits like no down payment and low interest rates to make homeownership more attainable.

To qualify, the property must be located in an eligible rural area and meet income limits. By understanding the eligibility requirements and benefits of USDA loans, potential homebuyers can explore this option for financing their dream home.


What is a USDA home loan?

A USDA home loan is a program from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help people buy homes in rural areas.

How does the USDA direct home loan work?

The USDA direct home loan, also known as section 502 direct, helps lower-income families to afford housing. These loans are given directly by the USDA.

Is there any type of service for home repair provided by the USDA?

Yes, The Section 504 Home Repair Program or better known as "home improvement" grant offers both loans and grants to low-income homeowners for critical repairs and improvements.

Can anyone apply for this type of loan?

No, only single-family households that fall within the income eligibility rules can apply for either the direct or guaranteed USAD loans.

Are there different types of loans available with usda?

Yes! There's another one called 'the guaranteed' – under section 502; Here, Loans aren’t issued directly by the USDA but through private lenders who offer these services based on specific criteria with rural development housing guarantees.

What happens if I cannot repay my USDA Loan?

USDA loans have built-in mortgage insurance which covers at least some portion if you fail to repay your loan allowing little relief towards your financial stress.

Philip Bennett

Philip Bennett

Philip is the owner and Licensed Mortgage Broker at Bennett Capital Partners, Bus. NMLS # 2046828. He earned his degree in Accounting and Finance from Binghamton University and holds a Master's Degree in Finance from NOVA Southeastern University. With more than 20 years of experience, Philip has been a leader in the mortgage industry. He has personally originated over $2 billion in residential and commercial mortgages.

Learn more about Philip Bennett's background and experience on our Founder's page. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned real estate investor, our team is here to help you achieve your real estate goals. Don't wait any longer, contact us today and let us help you find the right mortgage for your needs.

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