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How to get preapproved for a USDA loan

Check your credit score and income to find out if you’re approved for this government-backed loan.

Be ready to submit documents that show your income, employment history and debts during the USDA loan preapproval process. You’ll also need a credit score of 680 for automated underwriting or 640 for manual underwriting.

How to get preapproved for a USDA loan:

Applying for preapproval can help identify potential issues you may run into during the actual application process. Here’s how to get preapproved:

  1. Compare USDA-approved lenders based on the lender’s experience with USDA loans, customer service and underwriting requirements.
  2. Submit details about your income, assets and credit.
  3. Your lender reviews your application and eligibility.
  4. Receive your preapproval application decision.

What questions will I need to answer?

Be prepared to answer questions based on USDA’s strict eligibility requirements. Some questions include:

  • Credit score. USDA’s Guaranteed Underwriting System (GUS) is an automated system that wants to see a credit score of 680. Most lenders who use a manual underwriting system require a minimum credit score of 640. You may qualify with a score below 640, but you’ll need to show extenuating circumstances.
  • Income. USDA income limits vary depending on the property location. Your annual income cannot exceed the median household income by more than 15%. Check an area’s income limit on the USDA website.
  • Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Lenders prefer to see a DTI maximum of 29% for all your monthly housing expenses and your overall DTI should be no more than 41%.
  • Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Your LTV can be as high as 100%.
  • Employment history. Lenders will likely request your previous two-year employment history but primarily look at the most recent 12 months on the job to make sure you have a steady income.

The USDA loan preapproval timeline

The preapproval process generally takes less than an hour. Your lender verifies your information and pulls your credit report. You should receive a preapproval letter within three business days.
Your preapproval letter usually lasts from 45 to 90 days, depending on the lender. Speak to a loan officer for a detailed timeline.

What happens if I’m rejected?

Your lender should tell you why it denied your USDA loan so you can try and reapply.
If your credit report is the issue, you can request a copy to check for any errors. If your debt-to-income (DTI) is too high, try to pay off some debts to lower the ratio. If your income is over the limit, you may consider qualifying in a different area with a higher median household income.
Another option is to apply with another lender with different eligibility requirements, or talk to a loan officer to see whether you qualify for another loan program. If you have a credit score below 620, consider another program available to borrowers with bad credit.
If you reapply for preapproval, be sure to apply within 45 days to protect your credit score — some lenders do a hard pull on your credit.

Bottom line.

USDA loan preapproval is a way to check your USDA loan eligibility and address any issues before you apply for the loan. Be sure to compare lenders to see which option is best for you.

Frequently asked questions.

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Kimberly Ellis is a personal finance writer at Finder, specializing in banking and financial literacy. After teaching in public and private schools, Kimberly zeroed in on personal financial education to help families and kids develop lifelong money skills. She hails from New York City, graduating summa cum laude from Queens College with a BA in elementary education and mathematics, as well as a New York State teaching certificate. She’s also an aspiring polyglot, always in a book and forever on the hunt for the perfect classic red lipstick. See full bio

Kimberly's expertise
Kimberly has written 94 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Kids' banking
  • Financial literacy for kids
  • K–12 education

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