Each day we receive many questions regarding the USDA Rural Development mortgage. Below we have outlined some of the most frequently asked USDA rural housing loan questions for 2023.
Have questions? We are happy to help, we have loan specialists standing by 7 days a week to assist you. Just submit the short Info Request Form on this page for fast service. Mobile users can find the Info Request form at the bottom of their screen. You can also contact us at Ph: 800-743-7556 Our goal is to respond to all submitted requests within 10 min during business hours.
Please note, all the FAQs below pertain to the USDA 502 Guaranteed program only.
Question: Does USDA have a maximum loan amount or home sales price? J. Thomas – Daytona Beach, FL
ANSWER: No loan or sale price limit. Homebuyers will be qualified based on their debt-to-income ratios. Generally speaking, the maximum housing expense (mortgage payment w/taxes and home insurance) would be limited to 30% of the buyer’s gross monthly income.
Question: I currently live in Tennessee, I want to get pre-approved for a USDA loan since I need to relocate for my job. My question is do I need to wait and get pre-approved in the state I’m looking to buy a home? Can I still live in TN and get pre-approved for a house I want to buy near Gainesville, FL? G. Smith – Jackson, TN
ANSWER: Great question. Yes, you can go ahead and get pre-approved now regardless of the state you are looking to move to. Just make sure your lender is approved to offer the USDA mortgage in the actual state you are moving to. Of course, you want to also ensure the area is USDA eligible. Also, the lender will likely request a short letter from your employer stating the approximate transfer date and salary change if any.
Question: How do I get a USDA home loan application, does it cost anything to apply? H. Carter – Riverview/ Hillsborough County FL
ANSWER: Not at all, homebuyers can contact us below to get started on their USDA mortgage application. There is no application fee to apply for the loan and the process is often finished in under 20min. Buyers can choose to complete their application over the phone, or via the web.
Question: How do I find a list of USDA homes for sale outside Orlando, Florida? L. Taylor – Apopka/Orange County FL
Answer: You can find all the USDA-approved rural-defined locations by clicking on the USDA eligibility map here. Please click on single-family housing under the property eligibility section at the top left. Once there you can input the address to see if the house is USDA-eligible. Keep in mind, the USDA 502 guarantee program can be used for any home purchase regardless of the home seller.
The property you purchase can be a bank foreclosure, short sale, HUD-owned home, standard “by owner” sale, etc. USDA Rural Housing is more concerned about where the house is located, as it must be located in an approved USDA rural defined location according to the map above.
The home also must be in overall good repair and in decent “move-in” type condition. Buyers cannot use the USDA loan to purchase properties that require extensive work or rehab. In addition, existing mobile and manufactured homes are not permitted. Also, “build on your own lot”, land purchases, etc are not permitted.
Question: Is the USDA Rural Housing program only for first-time home buyers? J.Levy – Charleston, SC
Answer: No! the program can be used by any qualified home buyer – not reserved for only first-time homeowners. However, applicants who currently own a home that they plan to retain will have additional restrictions. Please read more about all First Time Buyer Programs here.
Question: Will I be required to take some kind of first-time homebuyer class with the USDA loan program? F. Simmons – Jacksonville, FL
Answer: No class or education is required with the USDA Rural loan. New home buyers can contact us below and get pre-qualified in minutes.
Question: Can I include closing costs in my USDA mortgage, I was told by my realtor this is an option? H Kincaid – Flagler Beach, FL
Answer: Yes, you will have two options to do this. First, the most common way is to negotiate your contract to have the home seller pay your closing cost. USDA Rural Development will permit the seller to pay up to 6% of the buyer’s USDA closing costs and prepaid escrow items.
Another option is to roll your closing into your loan given the appraised value is high enough to support it. To use this option, the home must appraise higher than the sales price. USDA will permit buyers to roll in or include closing costs up to the appraised value of the home, not just the sales price. You can also do a combination of these two options. Learn more about USDA Closing Costs here
Question: How much are the USDA loan closing costs and pre-paid escrow items? Also, will the taxes and home insurance be included in my monthly mortgage payment? J. Collier – Tallahassee, FL
Answer: The exact amount of closing costs, etc will depend on many different variables like your loan amount, property state, current tax assessment, and homeowners insurance policy amount. Generally, 4-6% of the sales price is a good estimate depending on how high the sale price is.
As for the taxes and home insurance, this will be included or “escrowed” as part of your monthly mortgage payment, along with the USDA mortgage insurance as required by USDA. So your monthly mortgage payment will include principal, interest, taxes, home insurance and mortgage insurance (PMI) In addition, your taxes and home insurance will automatically be renewed for you each year.
Question: How much is the USDA appraisal cost, do I pay this fee? S.Leewood – Naples, FL
Answer: The USDA appraisal charge is typically $450.00 -$750.00. The exact amount can fluctuate depending on the market, property and lot size. The USDA appraisal fee is usually paid in advance (to the lender or appraisal management company) by the home buyer after the contract is executed and approved. Depending on how the sales contract /sellers concessions are structured, homebuyers can often receive this fee back, along with their deposit at closing.
Question: Does the USDA program have a loan amount limit or a cap on how much I can purchase? D. McCoy – Nashville, TN
Answer: There is NO purchase loan amount limit with the USDA 502 Guaranteed program, home buyers qualify based on their debt and income. Please learn more details about USDA & loan limits here. This will explain how maximum purchase qualifying amounts are determined.
Question: I found the perfect USDA-eligible home, but it needs some repairs. Can I borrow extra money on my loan to pay for new carpet and a new fence in the backyard? J Vasquez – Valdosta, GA
Answer: Depending on the lender and their in-house requirements, some may permit assuming the appraised value is higher than the purchase price.
Have a question? Please submit the Info Request Form on this page. More Frequently asked USDA RURAL Housing Loan questions are listed below.
Question: I was reading the USDA housing program allows for 101% financing – does this mean we can receive 1.0% extra for repairs or money back. N. Zimmerman – Columbus, GA
Answer: The USDA 1.0% guarantee fee (as of 2023) is the one-time fee that is required by USDA Rural Housing. All government loan programs like USDA, VA and FHA mortgages require a one-time funding fee in order to sustain the programs and limit losses. The fee is rolled into the final adjusted loan amount – Example: Let’s say Betty chooses 100% financing USDA purchase on a $200,000 home. Her base loan amount would be $200,000 – however, the final adjusted loan amount with the USDA guarantee fee included would be $202,000.
In addition to the Guarantee fee, the USDA loan also requires a monthly mortgage insurance premium like FHA loans but much $$ less each month. (most know this as PMI) Please read about the 2024 USDA Guarantee Fee here. The current USDA Fee schedule will remain in effect throughout the year.
Question: I found a home that I like, but it has some issues with the roof and electrical. Will this pass USDA home inspection requirements? Ocala, FL
Answer: USDA (like FHA and VA home loans) follows many of the same HUD requirements when it comes to the property condition. Generally speaking – any safety, electrical, plumbing, structural, HVAC, roof, or WDO termite issues will likely need to be corrected before closing. It really depends on the severity of the problem and whether it will be required to be corrected before closing. The appraiser’s notes along with the lender’s underwriter will typically determine this.
Keep in mind many bank-owned or distressed homes are being sold “as is” and they will not correct or repair anything in most cases. The house has to generally be in decent overall condition. This doesn’t mean the house has to be perfect, as most homes have some little issues that are to be expected.
The idea is to ensure home buyers are purchasing a home in generally sound condition and don’t get in over their heads with serious problems and expenses right after closing. Safety-related issues are generally the most important, items like exposed wires, etc. Home buyers looking to purchase a home that needs extensive repairs (and money to do so) should read about the FHA 203K loan.
Question: What houses are approved for USDA mortgage financing in my area? What type of properties are permitted? Jose V – Sarasota, FL
Answer: USDA Rural housing is for ANY single-family home, townhome, PUD, or condo that is located within a USDA-eligible location. The house can be a short sale home, bank foreclosure, REO, or for sale by owner….doesn’t matter. The important factor is the physical location of the home, it must be located in a rural housing approved location. Existing mobile manufactured homes are not permitted by most lenders.
Most lenders will also not permit building a new home on your own land or lot. However, purchasing a new home (new construction) from a builder is permitted. Click here to view the USDA map – this will show you all the approved locations based on the property address. For example, in Florida, many semi-rural locations just outside of Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, Gainesville and Tallahassee are still eligible.
Do not assume your location is not USDA Rural housing eligible before checking or calling us, you may be surprised! If your location is not USDA-approved, be sure to ask us about other financing alternatives that require little down payment. The FHA Mortgage is a great alternative for home buyers looking to purchase in more populated locations.
Question: I put a contract in a home and was wondering if I need to pay a deposit of some sort? J. Bryan – Macon, GA
Answer: Typically a deposit will be required from the seller to show your “good faith” in following through with the purchase. This is often called an escrow binder deposit or good faith deposit, etc. For homes in the $150,000 – $350,000 range, a $1,000- $2,500 deposit is typically customary. Some buyers may decide to provide a higher deposit to strengthen their offer, which is more important in a strong seller’s market.
Any deposit money paid in advance will be applied towards the purchase of the home. Buyers will oftentimes get their deposit money back in the event of appraisal, financing or home inspection issues. It really depends on the contingencies written into the contract, but the items listed above are pretty standard. Ensure you check with your realtor.
Question: I’m under contract to purchase a home now and about to get started on the loan processing. What type of paperwork or documentation do I need to get my USDA loan processed? Y. Summers – Lakeland, FL
Answer: You should make copies of your last (2) years’ tax returns, W2s, Last 2 months of bank statements, and last 3 months pay stubs. Also a copy of your driver’s license / ID and social security card. There may be additional paperwork needed, but these are the basic things needed for borrowers to start the USDA loan process.
Question: I owned a home years ago, and now want to consider purchasing a nice brick home I recently found. Can I purchase this home with a USDA loan? I thought the USDA program was only for first-time home buyers? I know the home is located in the approved USDA area outside of Tampa. D Clayton – Pasco County, FL
Answer: Yes you can! Any qualified buyer can use the USDA program to purchase their next home. The program is not reserved only for first-time homeowners. The home must be a primary residence, no second vacation homes or investment rental homes are allowed.
Question: Is there any USDA loan restriction on how long I must live in my home, or when I can sell my home? B. Gadsden – Atlanta, GA
Answer: No, you can move and sell your home anytime with USDA 502 Guaranteed Loan. The USDA mortgage does NOT have any prepayment or early payoff penalty. You can sell/pay off your loan whenever you like without restriction or fees. This is also the case with other Government-backed loans like FHA and VA. Sometimes restrictions can apply for buyers using down payment assistance (grants, bond money) in conjunction with their USDA loan. Please check with the agency in advance.
Question: Is there a limit on how much income your household can make each year with the Rural Development program? Where do I find this information? L. Bolden – Brandon – Manatee County FL
Answer: Yes, each county has a different limit based on a variety of factors – number of people in the household, elderly and disabilities. Please check the USDA Eligibility Assessment link here.
Please remember, the USDA income limits apply to ALL members of the household that generate income, not only the parties on the loan application. The only exception to this is working Full-time students. If they work, their max income included is $480.00 per year, regardless of how much they make.
However, if they are dependent, this income can be offset and canceled because households always take a $480 deduction for dependents. If your income appears to be close to the limit, or you just aren’t sure how to calculate it, please contact us so we can formally review it with you. We are always happy to help.
Question: My income is currently under the USDA Collier County limit right now, what happens if I get a raise at my job and my income goes over the limit in the future? J. Carney – Charleston, SC
Answer: This is a very common question we get. The only concern is your household income up to the time of closing, not in the future.
Question: What kind of credit score do I need to pre-qualify for a USDA loan? J Duval – Lake City, FL
Answer: Most lenders and banks require a minimum credit score of 620. However, this minimum credit score requirement does not guarantee USDA financing. USDA Rural Housing has other restrictions (set waiting periods) for applicants who have any past bankruptcy, foreclosure, short sales, or other serious financial hardships. Mortgage qualifying requirements have changed dramatically over recent years. Contact us today for the latest USDA approval requirements.
Question: I understand the USDA loan is 100% financing. But I have some money saved up and I would like to contribute a down payment, can I do that? K. Stanford – Franklin, TN
Answer: For sure! USDA will permit buyers to put a 3%, 5%, etc down payment if they choose. However, the 502 Guaranteed program is geared toward buyers who do not have the means (down payment) for a conventional home loan. Example: If you have 20% for a down payment you will do a standard conventional mortgage.
Question: My Realtor informed me that I cannot get a USDA loan if the house has a pool, is this correct? A. Myers -Lakeland, FL
Answer: Pools are permitted with the USDA program. In the past, the value of the pool could not be included in the home appraisal. However, years ago this rule changed to INCLUDE the contributory value of any in-ground swimming pool into the property value. Basically, USDA now views in-ground pools the same now as other mortgage programs.
Question: I found a property I would like to write an offer on today. But the house is located on a dirt road and my lender said USDA program requirements will not permit this. Can you clarify this for me before I submit my offer? J Spencer – St. Augustine, FL
Answer: USDA follows HUD handbook requirements on road guidelines. Basically, the road must provide safe vehicle and public access from a public or private road. Additionally, all roads are required to have an all-weather surface and be maintained by a road maintenance agreement by all homeowners on the street or homeowners association. Some dirt roads (county maintained especially) are fine and generally approved. Please contact us for additional clarification.
Question: Can I use the 100% USDA loan to purchase an investment rental home? W. Quinn – Orange Park, FL
Answer: USDA can only be used to purchase a primary residence. Second homes and investment properties are not permitted. Debt Service Coverage Ratio loans are popular with Florida Real Estate Investors, learn more about DSCR Loans here.
Question: I have determined that my area is eligible for USDA housing. What do I need to get together for the USDA loan application and approval process? G. Miller – Jackson, Miss
Answer: Please click the highlighted link to the right to learn tips about being prepared for your USDA loan application.
Question: I have my USDA housing application complete and have already started looking at houses online. Do I need to use a certain realtor for this, or will any real estate agent work? L. Allen – Columbus, GA
Answer: Any Realtor will be ok, just be sure they are working for you and you are happy with them. If you need assistance finding a great Realtor in your town, please let us know, we would be happy to make the connection for you. We have great partnering Realtors throughout the U.S. who understand the USDA loan process well. Contact us if you need assistance.
USDA FAQs Continued
Question: I was told that the USDA loan takes a really long time to close, is this true? K. Russell – Kissimmee – St. Cloud FL
Answer: The entire USDA closing process can take 30-45 days from full contract acceptance to closing, depending on your state. The USDA Rural Housing closing turn times do change. Unlike other mortgages, USDA loans go through a two-step approval process with the lender/bank and the actual USDA Rural Development office. Because of this, the process can take up to a week extra when compared to conventional or FHA mortgages.
The good news is USDA has implemented some recent changes and turn times have improved as a result. Read more about USDA closing turn times here. Please note, if you are a home buyer and have questions about an existing USDA file you have in process with another mortgage company (lender, broker or bank) you will need to contact them directly to obtain your current loan status.
Question: When is my first mortgage payment due after I close on my USDA loan? G. Franklin – Knoxville, TN
Answer: You normally skip the following month after closing. Example: let’s say you close on your USDA RD loan on August 9th, your first mortgage payment won’t be due until Oct 1st. The same applies to a USDA refinance, you can skip up to two months of mortgage payments.
Question: How are the mortgage interest rates on USDA loans compared to other loan programs like FHA, VA, etc? A. Franklin – Wesley Chapel, FL
Answer: USDA interest rates are pretty much the same as other government mortgage programs like FHA and VA home loans. However, USDA loans have significantly lower monthly mortgage insurance (PMI) when compared to FHA loans. In fact, the monthly mortgage insurance (known as an annual fee) is much less when compared to FHA loans.
The FHA monthly mortgage insurance is currently .55% for the max 96.5% financing as of March 2023, and the USDA RD program is .35% This is important to remember and is a slight benefit of the USDA program. Even if you have enough savings and can afford the min 3.5% down payment required by FHA loans, you may want to consider the USDA loan just for the reduced mortgage insurance costs.
USDA interest rates do change on a daily basis until the home buyer’s rate is locked in. Buyers will typically “lock-in” their mortgage interest rate once they have signed a contract to purchase a home and have a closing settlement date established.
Question: I heard the USDA property eligibility map was changing October 1st 2014, but got delayed? Many locations that are currently eligible for the 100% USDA program may not be in the near future. Can you clarify? M. Broward – Jackson, Tennessee
Answer: USDA Rural Housing has implemented a newly updated map (eligible area) a few years ago. Homebuyers can find the new 2024 USDA map here to check a property address for eligibility. If you are NOT located near any USDA-eligible housing locations, please submit the short Info Request Form on the right side of this page to discuss alternate min down payment financing options. Mobile users can find the Info Request Form at the bottom of their page. Please bookmark our blog for important updates. Please also note, this map area change does not impact homeowners that currently have a USDA loan and want to refinance into a lower interest rate.
Question: Do you have a USDA mortgage payment calculator I can figure up my monthly mortgage payment? E. Sanders – Little Rock, AR
Answer: For sure, just look down at the lower right side of your screen. There you will find a USDA monthly payment calculator that will include principal, interest, monthly taxes, home insurance, and monthly mortgage insurance. Tip – be sure to add 1.0% to your loan amount to factor in the 1% USDA guarantee fee that will be added to your loan. For example: if you are purchasing a $150,000 home at 100% financing with no down payment, be sure to input $151,500 for your loan amount.
Question: I have a USDA mortgage on my house now. If I sell my house next year, can I keep the profit/equity? D. Filmore – Winter Garden, FL
Answer: Yes, assuming you have a standard USDA 502 Guaranteed loan (no special subsidy) You can sell your house and pocket the profits just like any other home sale. You can also use the USDA home loan again (on your next home) if you still meet the eligibility and qualifying requirements.
Question: My husband and I are planning to purchase a home for around $780,000 outside of Orlando in a USDA approved area. Can we look at this program? or is there a loan amount limit?
Answer: Technically there is no loan amount limit with USDA loans. However, there are household income limits and debt to income ratio caps. Because of these caps, most home purchase prices will likely be limited to $500,000 or below and this is assuming a “best case” for a large family of 5+ members (higher permitted income limit) that has little to zero other debt. In your case, you will likely be required to obtain a Jumbo mortgage as your income likely exceeds the limit (contact us to review in detail)
Jumbo programs today offer low-down-payment options of up to 95% financing for approved buyers. Buyers can see the complete Jumbo home buyers guide here.
Question: I currently have a USDA loan, what are my options to refinance my loan into a lower interest rate? I would like to try to lower my monthly payment. Unfortunately, I do not have any equity in my home. L. Sanders – Pensacola, FL
Answer: Please click the highlighted link → to learn about the USDA Streamline Assist Refinance program available here in select states.
Please view additional frequently asked USDA rural housing loan questions in the comments below.
Questions? Just submit the short Info Request Form on this page for fast service. Mobile users can find the Info Request Form at the bottom of this page. You can also contact us Monday – Sunday at Ph: 800-743-7556. Proud to serve home buyers across the U.S.
Purchasing a home, but not located in a Rural Development approved area? Click to learn about the FHA Mortgage.
Frequently asked USDA Rural Housing Loan questions