USDA Loans (Rural Housing)

A USDA loan, sometimes referred to as “rural housing”, is one of the most powerful lending options available outside of a VA loan because it is the only other program where you can purchase a home with zero money down. Designed to help first time home buyers purchase a home without a down payment, you would think just about everyone trying to buy their first home would be getting a USDA loan, right? Wrong. There are three main limiting factors that tend to prevent the very people it could help most from being able to get a USDA loan. The first is location, the second is debt to income ratios (DTI), and the third is income.

USDA loans are often referred to as rural housing because USDA loans have to be in approved areas, and those areas are all rural. Each property address has to be checked to see if it is approved for a USDA loan. It is not uncommon for half a street to be eligible and the other half to be ineligible. So it is very important if you qualify for USDA financing that you let your loan officer know the address of the property you’re looking at.

The second challenge is DTI. There is a top end DTI and a bottom end DTI; one is without your new mortgage, and the other is your DTI calculated with your new mortgage. Without your mortgage, your DTI cannot exceed 29% and with your mortgage added in, your DTI cannot exceed 41%. This is a HUGE limiting factor and probably the number one reason why new home buyers have to go FHA instead of USDA.

And the third reason I’ll mention here is income. Believe it or not, a person or family can make too much to qualify for a USDA loan because there are income limits based on census tract. And unlike other programs, every person in the household, even if they are not on the loan, must be included in the income cap calculation. There are deductions for disabilities and other factors, but I can work out the calculation for you during prequalification if your DTI ratios fall within the lending parameters and you’re looking in a USDA eligible area.

USDA loans also have to be approved by the state USDA which adds time to your loan process. Your loan is essentially being underwritten twice; once by the lender, and once by USDA. Your loan must be cleared to close before it will go to USDA, so by the time it gets to the USDA it should be more like a review for them.  Many lenders take a long time for USDA loans (up to 60 days), but I have several top government lenders who can get a USDA loan underwritten and closed in around 30-45 days without a problem. I’ve even done a few in less than 30 days.

Because USDA loans are backed by the government, they do carry up front mortgage insurance like an FHA loan as well as monthly mortgage insurance. In October 2016 the government heard the complaints of loan officers and lenders about how difficult it was to qualify for a USDA loan and lowered the up front mortgage insurance from 2.75% of the loan amount to just 1%, and the mortgage insurance was reduced from .5% monthly to just .35%. This was a huge move designed to help potential home buyers fit in the DTI ratios.

The last thing I will mention here about a USDA loan is that the appraisal is also somewhat tricky. Not unlike FHA or VA loans, the home must be in good shape so I would recommend avoiding a “fixer upper” if you are going with USDA financing. If the appraiser determines that repairs are needed, or something about the home does not meet USDA guidelines, then they will turn in the appraisal with an appraised value but “subject to” completion of anything they found wrong. That means the seller has to address it or you have no loan. Period. And once the seller does address the issue, you as the borrower then have to pay an additional $75-$175 to have the appraiser go back out to the property and check to make sure the issues were indeed properly addressed before finishing a “completion report” to close out the appraisal. Don’t let this overly concern you; it sounds worse than it really is. Just be aware that as with any government loan, it is possible your appraisal will come back “subject to” some item and will need to be addressed. It’s designed to protect the borrower (you), and ensure your home meets a specific standard. So although it may cost you time and a little more money for the appraisal if this happens, it’s certainly better to get it addressed before you buy it.

USDA FAQs

No. There are some Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs, but be careful. The devil is in the details. Call me and we can discuss. There may be another way.

Most lenders require a 640 or better, although there are exceptions where you can go as low as a 620.

Most likely not. Unlike FHA there are no county loan limits that cap the maximum loan amount, but the way their parameters are structured you would most likely run into either a DTI issue or you would exceed the income caps set by USDA. Having said that, it’s always worth running the numbers. You never know.

Mortgage insurance lasts for the life the loan with USDA. If you want to drop your mortgage insurance, you will need to refinance into a conventional loan when you reach an 80% LTV.

That depends. You won’t have any down payment requirements but you still have title work, any transfer taxes, state taxes/fees, home owner’s insurance, and your escrows. I can work up these numbers for you so you know how much cash you would need at closing. Your seller can contribute up to 6% of the sales price in seller concessions to cover your closing costs and prepaids. Your agent can talk to you about how that is negotiated. Every deal is unique; it depends on the seller and how much you are offering to buy their house.  If your seller pays for your closing costs and prepaids, you can actually go to the closing table and just sign papers without having to bring a dime.

Why choose me as your USDA loan officer?

  • We close USDA loans faster than other lenders

  • Expert USDA processors

  • Fantastic USDA rates

  • Top government lenders