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FHA loans are one of the best options for young, first-time home buyers who have not had as much time to save for a large down payment or establish a high credit score.

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Let's Compare FHA Loans to VA, USDA, and Conventional Mortgages

Let's Compare FHA Loans to VA, USDA, and Conventional Mortgages
Buying a home is complicated. Financing it, even more so! With so much information coming at you from different places, it can become overwhelming. However, it is incredibly important for you to stay informed, and know what your options are. So, start with the basics. Read about the four different mortgage types available before approaching a lender, so you have a better idea of what to look for. 

 FHA Loans 

FHA mortgages are backed by the U.S. Federal Housing Administration, a government agency established by HUD to promote equal opportunity housing opportunities for Americans. Borrowers can apply for FHA loans through lenders who are approved to provide them by the FHA. FHA loan programs are a particularly good choice for first-time homebuyers because they are designed with them in mind. The FHA has easier-to-meet standards for borrowers, such as a minimum credit score of 580, a smaller down payment requirement of 3.5%, and a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or less. Since the FHA backs these loans and protects lenders from losses, the lenders find it easier to grant loans to higher-risk borrowers. 

VA Loans 

VA home loans are great options for active or retired members of the U.S. military, and even for certain qualifying relatives. VA loans are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and have many similar features as FHA loans, namely, less stringent eligibility requirements. However, unlike FHA loans, the VA requires NO down payment for VA loans. This makes VA loans especially appealing to first-time homebuyers. About 90% of VA loan borrowers don't put down any money when financing their home. 

USDA Mortgages 

USDA loans are a lot like the VA and FHA loan programs, but these are backed by the United States Department of Agriculture. These mortgages were established to help make homeownership more affordable in qualifying, rural areas. Unlike the FHA, the USDA sets income limits that borrowers must fall under to qualify for a USDA loan. This limit is typically under 115% of the area median income, which limits the applications to low- and moderate-income families. 

Conventional Mortgage  

Simply put, conventional loans are mortgages that are not insured by the government, which also means that there are no additional qualification requirements set by any agency outside the lender.   

Since conventional loans are not insured by a government agency like the FHA, VA, or USDA, it comes with more risk for lenders. If a borrower defaults on their mortgage, the lender stands to lose out on those payments and interest. That is why conventional loans come with higher qualifying requirements that borrowers must satisfy. Homebuyers with low credit scores who are accepted for government-backed loans may not qualify for conventional loans, since lenders need to be more certain that the borrower can repay the loan. Most conventional loans have a minimum credit score of 620, and a minimum down payment of 5% with private mortgage insurance. Given all these hurdles, keep in mind that conventional loans usually offer comparatively lower interest rates. 

You should always talk to an experienced loan officer to see what the best loan type is to suit your needs, but it helps to do your own homework. If you approach a lender already having an idea of what you are looking for, it shows that you are prepared.  


Homebuyers Benefit From the Work Done by Fannie Mae
HUD 4000.1 is Sometimes Called the FHA Handbook
Credit History Is Presented as Your FICO Score
See Your Credit Scores From All 3 Bureaus
See Your Credit Scores From All 3 Bureaus

FHA Loan Articles

When not to Consider Refinancing a Home

There are plenty of reasons to delay plans to refinance a home. One reason has made big headlines. When borrowers face higher interest rates than originally approved for, that is a good reason to wait to refinance.

How FHA Construction Loan Draw Disbursements Work

When you are approved for an FHA One-Time Close Construction loan, you get a single loan that pays for both the costs to build the house, and serves as the mortgage. One application, one approval process, and one closing date.

Mortgage Rate Predictions for 2024

In the last days of November 2023, mortgage loan rates flirted with the 8% range but have since backed away, showing small but continued improvement. What does this mean for house hunters considering their options to become homeowners soon?

Is It Cheaper to Buy a Home With an FHA Loan or to Rent?

In May 2023, USA Today published some facts and figures about the state of the housing market in America. If you are weighing your options for an FHA mortgage and trying to decide if it’s cheaper to buy or rent, your zip code may have a lot to do with the answers you get.

Why Do FHA Loans Have Borrowing Limits?

FHA loan limits serve as a crucial mechanism to balance financial sustainability, regional variations in housing costs, and the agency's mission to promote homeownership, particularly for those with limited financial resources.

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