There are currently four major loan programs available to consumers looking to buy a home in the United States: Conventional, FHA, VA and USDA. Each program has specific guidelines that govern the credit, income and asset requirements that determine the exact loan for which individuals will qualify.
Conventional home loan rules are set forth by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These quasi government agencies determine the detailed guidelines that homebuyers must follow in order to use a conventional mortgage. Frequently individuals who purchase with a conventional loan have a sizable down payment from a previous home sale or a home purchase savings plan.
FHA insured mortgage loans are used most often these days because of their low down payment and relaxed credit-qualifying guidelines. In addition, FHA is more lenient with respect to individuals debt to income ratio.
A VA guaranteed mortgage is designed specifically for those that have served in the US armed forces and Coast Guard and meet the requirements put in place by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For veterans seeking to purchase a new home, the VA loan is almost always their best option. In addition to not requiring a down payment, the program doesn’t have a requirement for monthly mortgage insurance.
USDA home loans are underwritten and insured by the US Department of Agriculture and are offered to homebuyers seeking to purchase a home in a designated rural area. The loan does not have a requirement for a down payment, but there are specific limitations that do apply to all purchases.