USDA vs FHA Loans - Comparing Requirements & Benefits

If you’re heading into homeownership, it’s important to understand the nuances of mortgage options, including the ins and outs of FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Loans. These government-backed loans serve different purposes, from accommodating a broad range of borrowers to catering specifically to those in rural areas, and it’s important as a homebuyer to consider loan features completely to choose the path that best aligns with your goals.


What is the Difference Between FHA and USDA?

The differences between FHA and USDA Loans go beyond the acronyms. The main difference between these loans lies in their eligibility requirements and purposes. FHA Loans are backed by the government and are available for a broad range of borrowers, while USDA Loans are specifically designed for low to moderate-income individuals living in rural areas. USDA Loans also often offer zero-down payment options, while FHA Loans typically require a minimum down payment.


What is a USDA Loan?

Is a quiet life away from the city lights something you’re after? The USDA aims to promote rural development by providing affordable housing opportunities to individuals who might not otherwise meet traditional financing criteria. Designed to assist individuals with low to moderate incomes in purchasing homes in rural or suburban areas, USDA Loans are government-backed mortgages. These loans often offer favorable terms, including low-interest rates and zero down payment options, making homeownership more accessible for those in qualifying locations.


To qualify for a USDA Loan, the following requirements must be met:

  • The property has to be in an eligible location
  • The home must be single-family and owner-occupied
  • The buyer’s income must be below the USDA-set limit
  • The buyer must have a minimum 640 credit score
  • The property must not be a working farm
  • Appraisal for the property must meet the USDA’s standards


What is an FHA Loan?

Typically good for first-time home buyers or limited savings, FHA Mortgage Programs are issued by private lenders and insured by the government and are designed to facilitate home buying for a diverse range of individuals. The loans offer lenient qualification criteria, including lower credit score requirements and smaller down payments, enhancing accessibility. Since FHA Loans are insured by the government, lenders are provided increased confidence to offer favorable terms.


Thinking about an FHA Loan? Make sure you meet these requirements:

  • 3.5% minimum down payment along with prepaid fees and closing costs
  • Regardless of the down payment amount, PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) is required on all loans
  • The home has to be the buyer’s primary residence
  • The borrower must provide proof of steady income and employment
  • Borrowers must also adhere to FHA Loan limits


When Should I Get a Rural Development Loan Versus FHA?

Choosing between a Rural Development (USDA) Loan and an FHA Loan depends on your circumstances and your goals for homeownership (i.e. if you’re a city slicker or country living is more your speed). Opt for a USDA Loan if you’re in a qualifying rural area, have a moderate income, and prefer a potential zero down payment. On the other hand, go for an FHA Loan if you’re open to a broader range of locations, have a diverse financial profile, and want a mortgage with a lower credit score requirement. These loans also offer different maximum amounts (RD is $377,600 and FHA is $472,030), which is an important factor to consider.


The Benefits of Government Loans for First Time Home Buyers

Government loans, like FHA and USDA, offer enticing perks for first-time homebuyers. With lower down payments, lenient credit score requirements, and competitive interest rates, they pave an easier path to homeownership. These benefits often outshine conventional loans, since they provide a more accessible foray into the housing market, particularly for those with limited financial resources or unique financial profiles.


Alternatives for Buying a Home with Low Down Payment

Hoping for a lower down payment but you’re outside of the requirements for FHA and USDA Loans? There are some other ways to seek more cost-effective down payments.

Down Payment Assistance
From grants to state-sponsored programs, there are plenty of down payment assistance options to explore to latch on to down payments as low as 0%.

Conventional Loans
Even if you commit to a conventional loan, you can still take advantage of affordable down payments as low as 3%!

Where Can I Buy a Home with a USDA Rural Development Loan in Michigan?
If you’re looking to buy with USDA home financing, you’ll have to make sure your property is in an eligible area. To find out if your desired area qualifies, you can check the eligibility map linked here.

How to Get an RD or FHA Government Loan
Thinking about diving into the housing market? Treadstone Mortgage is your key to unlocking the doors of your new home. Our expert team specializes in securing USDA and FHA Loans, tailoring solutions to fit your unique needs. Let’s navigate the path to your dream home together. Contact us today to start your journey toward affordable and accessible homeownership.


Subject to credit approval, not all borrowers may qualify. All information is for educational and illustrative purposes only. Not a commitment to lend, and not financial advice. Not affiliated with or endorsed by any government institution. Please contact us for eligibility and quotes.

Both of these loans offer enticing perks for first-time homebuyers!