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USDA vs. FHA loans

These programs offer home loans to low-income applicants but strict criteria and mortgage fees apply.

For those with low income or poor credit, qualifying for a mortgage can be a challenge. Government-backed USDA and FHA loans are designed to connect applicants with low- and no-down-payment loan options — but not every borrower and property qualifies.

How do USDA loans and FHA loans compare?

While both USDA and FHA loans are backed by the federal government, these loan programs have their own distinct features and lending requirements.

USDA loans are backed by the United States Department of Agriculture. They’re fixed-rate mortgages that don’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. To qualify, borrowers must meet strict income requirements, agree to use the property as their primary residence and select a property located in a community of 35,000 people or less.

FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration. They’re available to applicants with credit scores as low as 500 who might not qualify for a conventional loan. A minimum down payment of 3.5% is required along with both an upfront and ongoing mortgage insurance premium.

Credit score requirementAs low as 640As low as 500
Maximum loan amountUp to $706,910Up to $822,375
Down paymentsAs low as $0As low as 3.5%
Interest ratesAs low as 1%As low as 1% for a direct loan
Repayment terms15- to 30-year fixed-rate15- to 30-year fixed- or adjustable-rate
Mortgage insuranceNot requiredRequired
Geographical limitationsLocated in a rural area with a population less than 35,000Available nationwide
Property usesOwner-occupiedOwner-occupied

Learn more about USDA loans

Learn more about FHA loans

Choose a USDA loan if:

You have a credit score of at least 640 and are interested in a qualifying rural property. While the no-down payment perk of a USDA loan may be attractive, you’ll need to meet the income restrictions and debt-to-income ratio criteria of your property’s location.

Avoid this loan type if:

You don’t plan to live in a rural area, have poor credit or exceed your area’s income eligibility criteria.

Choose an FHA loan if:

You can’t qualify for a conventional loan due to poor credit. Borrowers with credit scores as low as 500 can qualify for an FHA loan with down payments as low 3.5%. But mortgage insurance premiums are required and not all providers offer FHA loans.

Avoid this loan type if:

You have strong credit and can qualify for a conventional mortgage. Upfront and ongoing FHA mortgage insurance premiums can make this an expensive option in the long run.

Compare FHA mortgage lenders

Compare top brands that offer FHA loans by state availability and credit score. Select See rates to provide the lender with basic property and financial details for personalized rates.

1 - 4 of 4
Name Product Loan products offered State availability Min. credit score
(NMLS #1168)
Conventional, Jumbo, FHA, VA, USDA, Refinance
Not available in: NY
Great customer reviews and customized rate quotes in three minutes with no SSN needed.
Rocket Mortgage
(NMLS #3030)
Rocket Mortgage
Conventional, Jumbo, FHA, VA, Refinance
Available in all states
Streamline your mortgage from quote to final payment — all from your computer or phone.
Veterans United
(NMLS #1907)
Veterans United
Conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, Jumbo, Refinance
Available in all states
Veterans United stands out from other lenders for its focus on serving the military community.
(NMLS #1136)
Conventional, Jumbo, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Equity, HELOC, Reverse, Refinance
Available in all states
Connect with vetted home loan lenders quickly through this online marketplace.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Government-backed USDA and FHA loans offer borrowers with less income and lower credit scores the opportunity to purchase a property. But strict eligibility criteria and insurance premiums serve as a reminder that these loan programs aren’t for everyone.

Review your home loan options with a range of lenders for the funding that best meets your needs.

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