You decided to finally buy your first home. Good choice.
A lot goes into the decision.
You want to find the ideal home in a good neighborhood. It should fit your budget and possess the right amenities.
Once you have found the property, you have another important decision to make: how you willÂ finance it.
Todayâ€™s market offers a number of programs that make buyingÂ your first homeÂ easier. And thereâ€™s no â€śrightâ€ť loan choice for everyone. The correct loan is the one that suits your situation the best.
Two popular options are the USDA Rural Development loan and the FHA home loan.
They are both low-downpayment loans, but beyond that, they are very different. You might be surprised at which one is the right choice for you.Click to see today's rates (Sep 25th, 2017)
What if you could get a no-downpayment loan with comparableÂ mortgage rates toÂ FHA? And, what if that loan allows you to finance closing costs, even without ultra-high credit scores?
IsÂ such a loan too good to be true? Hardly.
The loan actually does exist, and it is called the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development home loan. It is rising in popularity among first-time home buyers.
A USDA home loan is different from a traditional mortgage in several ways. But that doesnâ€™t make them inaccessible. In fact, some features of USDA make them more attainable compared to FHA.
USDA loans require no downpayment. You may finance up to 100% of the property value, which, sometimes, is above the homeâ€™s purchase price. In these cases, the buyer can finance closing costs.
Hereâ€™s how it works. You make an offer on a home for $200,000. The lenderâ€™s official appraisal report states the home is worth $205,000.
The buyer can open a loan for the full value, as long as the excess funds are applied to closing costs such as the title report and loan origination fees.
Excess funds can even be used to prepay property taxes and homeownerâ€™s insurance.
So, in the end, the buyer pays even less than â€śno-downpayment.â€ť
Home buyers typically pay something out-of-pocket, even if they put nothing down. Closing costs can add thousands of dollars to the necessary cash-to-close figure.
Even most renters must put up a security deposit, plus a few monthsâ€™ rent.
But with USDA, thereâ€™s a chance the buyer can walk into a home paying nothing from their own bank account.
With FHA, the home buyer must come up with a 3.5 percent downpayment, plus closing costs. FHA has no guideline stating that the loan amount can exceed the purchase price.
The only way to get a zero out-of-pocket loan with FHA is to get a downpayment gift, plus additional gift funds or seller contributions for closing costs.
USDA is more flexible, so buyers with little cash on-hand should look into this optionÂ first.Click to see today's rates (Sep 25th, 2017)
USDA eligibility depends on the location of the home. You must purchase a property in a rural area as defined by the USDA.
But the definition of â€śruralâ€ť is quite liberal, and based on U.S. census information from more than 15 years ago.Â So, many solidly suburban areas are still eligible.
USDA publishes online maps with which buyers can check the eligibility of a certain address or geographical area. Buyers will find that some entire states are USDA-eligible. Even highly populated states containÂ surprisingly vastÂ USDA-eligible areas.
An estimated 97% of the American landscape is geographically eligible for a USDA loan.
Still, some buyers might find that eligible areas are too far outside employment centers, and for that reason choose an FHA loan, which comes with no geographical restrictions.
The Rural Development loan was created to spur homeownership in rural areas, especially among home buyers who would not otherwise qualify.
As such, USDA publishes income limits. Maximums are set at 115% of the median income for the county or area.Â That amounts toÂ fairly non-restrictiveÂ limits. The following are examples ofÂ maximum annual incomes in various locales around the country.
Not everyone will fall within USDA income limits. That's where FHA comes in. FHA loans come with absolutely no income limits for its standard program.
You do not have to be a first-time home buyer for either FHA or USDA. However, for both loan types, you canâ€™t own adequate housing within a reasonable distance of the home being purchased.
For instance, if you ownÂ a three-bedroom house, you can't use FHA or USDA to buy another three-bedroom house down the street.
You must also plan to live in the home you buy. Rental and investment housingÂ is not allowed under USDA or FHA. Both loans have the same goal: get individuals and families into their own homes.
Neither loan permits activity that could be interpreted as a real estate investor building a portfolio.Click to see today's rates (Sep 25th, 2017)
Similar to the Federal Housing Administration's FHA mortgage, the USDA uses homeowner-paid mortgage insurance premiums to keep the USDA home loan program viable for future home buyers.
But USDA mortgage insurance premiums are cheaper than those of FHA,Â and have recently dropped even further.
Beginning in October 1, 2016 USDAÂ reduced its mortgage insurance premiums.
The upfront mortgage insurance, which is financed onto your loan balance, dropped from 2.75 percent to 1.0 percent. Likewise, theÂ monthly premium fellÂ 15 basis points (0.15%) to just 0.35 percent.
Compare USDA mortgage insurance to thatÂ of FHA and you will immediately see the significant savings.
The FHA upfront mortgage insurance premium is 1.75 percent and the monthly fee is typically 0.85 percent of the loan balance, divided equally into twelve installments and included with each mortgage payment.
The following chart compares upfront and monthly costs on a $250,000 mortgage loan after October 1, 2016.
|Loan Type||Upfront Fee||Monthly Fee|
|USDA||Â $2,500||Â $70|
|FHA||Â $4,375||Â $175|
The mortgage insurance savings alone could be enough to push some FHA buyers to USDA, if the zero-downpayment feature wasnâ€™t reason enough.Click to see today's rates (Sep 25th, 2017)
There is no stated maximum loan size for the USDA loan program. The amount you can borrow, rather, is limited by your household's debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, the comparison between your monthly debt payments and gross income.
For instance, a home buyer who makes $6,000 per month and $2,000 in monthly debt payments has a DTI of 33 percent.
The USDA typically limits debt-to-income ratios to 41%, except when the borrower has a credit score over 660, stable employment, or can show a demonstrated ability to save.
These mortgage application strengths listed above are often referred to as â€ścompensating factorsâ€ť and can play a big role in getting approved for any mortgage -- not just USDA.
Both FHA and USDA mortgage options have pros and cons:
In most cases, home buyers that qualify for a USDA rural home loan should go in that direction.
With comparable rates, lower mortgage insurance premiums and the option for 100 percent financing, USDA Rural Development loans make sense for many of todayâ€™s suburban home buyer.
Mortgage rates today are low, and USDA mortgage come with some of the lowest rates available for any loan type.
Get your USDA loan rate quote, which comes with a home buying eligibility check, and your mortgage credit scores.Click to see today's rates (Sep 25th, 2017)
The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.
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2017 Conforming, FHA, & VA Loan Limits
Mortgage loan limits for every U.S. county, as published by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)