Whether they ask for 20% or even 7% down, raising the initial down payment might take years, and you struggle to save the required amount. Fortunately, USDA loans are here to help make your homeownership journey as smooth as possible.
Owning a home in Lake County, Florida, has never been easier, thanks to USDA zero-down mortgage loans. With 0% down payment, lower interest rates, and up to 100% financing, there is no reason why you shouldn’t grab this opportunity by the scruff of the neck.
Are you a Hometown Hero? Find out your eligibility for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Lake County, Florida.
What is a USDA Zero-Down Mortgage Loan?
A USDA zero-down mortgage loan is a unique home financing option for low- and moderate-income applicants aspiring to buy safe, modern homes in rural areas. It falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a federal agency that formulates and implements policies on agriculture, rural housing, and rural development. With a zero-down mortgage loan, you no longer have to struggle to raise the minimum down payment required by most home lenders.
This government-backed loan facility allows you to buy a decent rural home, even if you’re ineligible for a conventional mortgage, with no down payment required. Besides, you don’t require cash reserves to qualify for this loan, and the interest rates are way lower than what you’d pay with a traditional home loan.
Even better, USDA zero-down mortgages are open to first-time and repeat homebuyers, so you don’t have to hesitate to apply for a second USDA loan. Sometimes, the USDA may include home inspection costs in the loan, and you can use the remaining proceeds for home improvements, renovations, and disability adjustments. If your home is dilapidated, the USDA can issue grants you can use for home repairs, and you don’t have to repay.
How Do USDA Loans Work?
USDA home loans are not your typical mortgage loan. This loan aims to foster rural communities by offering up to 100% financing to eligible applicants living in unsafe rural conditions to get decent single-family homes with ample space and modern utilities. USDA home loans vary significantly from traditional mortgages, with no down payments being the most noticeable difference. They target low-income households in rural or remote areas and offer better terms than any available home financing option.
When applying for a USDA zero-down mortgage, your credit score does not often matter in most cases, with your household income the only critical eligibility requirement. After a successful loan application, you can get your mortgage funds directly from USDA or through an independent lender such as a bank. Unlike other mortgages, you can only use the loan proceeds to purchase your preferred home in an eligible rural area, meaning you likely have to move to the countryside.
The good news is that the USDA is not strict on what they consider rural since some suburban neighborhoods and areas near major cities and towns fall under this designation. USDA loans do not have adjustable-rate mortgages or a 15-year fixed option. The loan is only available as a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Interest rates are significantly lower than ordinary home loans, and your monthly loan repayments cannot exceed 29% of your monthly income and 41% of your monthly expenses.
Types of USDA Zero-Down Mortgage Loans
The USDA offers two types of zero-down mortgage loans to eligible applicants, and these include:
- Guaranteed USDA loan
- Direct USDA loan
Guaranteed and direct USDA loans are strikingly similar since they are all single-family housing mortgages with zero down payments. The difference between the two is who funds the loan.
Guaranteed USDA Loans
With a guaranteed zero-down mortgage, the USDA guarantees up to 90% of the loan if you get it through a bank or commercial lender. The USDA insures a specific percentage of the loan, promising to reimburse the lender if you default on payments. With such guarantees from the government, private lenders feel comfortable financing your home purchase, even if your credit score is less than favorable.
The lender will calculate your average household income, including the combined income of every adult in the home. Your adjusted income must not exceed 115% of the median household income where you intend to purchase a house. Besides, your new home must be your primary residence, and you cannot use it for commercial purposes. Once approved, you get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with no down payment or asset required
Direct USDA Loans
Direct USDA loans are the opposite of guaranteed USDA mortgages and are suitable for low- to very-low-income borrowers who cannot access any other type of home loan. These zero-down home loans come straight from the USDA instead of a bank or a private lender, meaning you must apply directly to the USDA Rural Development.
Like all USDA loans, this mortgage has no down payment, but you must meet a specified debt-to-income ratio not exceeding 41% of your household’s gross monthly income. You must have a low income, and your credit score should be at least 640. Like the guaranteed zero-down mortgage, you can only get approved for a direct USDA loan if the home is in a designated rural area and you intend to use it as your primary residence. The home must be modest and within a property less than 2,000 square feet that you cannot subdivide into smaller parcels.
Moreover, the single-family house cannot have an in-ground swimming pool, and you cannot use it for income-generating activities. Once approved, the USDA will channel the funds to your account or pay the seller directly.
How to Obtain a Zero-Down Mortgage Loan?
Zero-down mortgages can help you acquire the house of your dreams without breaking a sweat. But first, you must meet all the minimum eligibility requirements to qualify for this loan.
Here’s a checklist of what you need to qualify for USDA loans:
- You must be a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident, or a qualified non-resident alien
- Agree to occupy the home as a primary residence
- The home must be within a designated rural area with a population of 35,000 or less
- The property must be non-income producing
- The property cannot have an in-ground swimming pool
- The house must be modest for the area
- Property size must be typical for the area
- Your average household income must be low to moderate
- The ideal credit score is 640, but most lenders overlook this requirement
- The preferred debt-to-income ratio is 41%
- Borrowers must not be delinquent on any federal debts
- Have the legal capacity to incur loan obligations
If you meet most of these eligibility requirements, you can proceed to apply to the USDA or a private lender for a zero-down mortgage loan.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to go about it:
Prequalify With an Accredited USDA Lender
The first step to obtaining a zero-down mortgage for your new rural home is to find a qualified USDA lender to help you with the loan application. You can choose to deal with a private lender or the USDA directly. Whatever your preferences, the loan expert will guide you through the eligibility requirements to assess whether or not you qualify for a USDA loan.
The highlight of USDA loans is that you can get away with some of the qualification requirements. For instance, most lenders don’t focus on FICO credit scores because USDA loans target low-income borrowers who may have less favorable credit ratings.
Qualifying for a loan is one thing, and getting approved is another. You may meet all eligibility requirements but fail to get approved. During preapproval, the lender will assess your creditworthiness by evaluating your total household income against your monthly debts to determine if you can afford to pay back the mortgage. Ideally, your debt-to-income ratio should not exceed 41% to qualify for a zero-down mortgage, but most lenders are lenient on this requirement when preapproving USDA loans.
Identify an Eligible Home
Even if you get approved for a USDA zero-down mortgage, you cannot use it for any home you come across. USDA loans are strictly for single-family houses in designated rural and suburban areas. You must ensure the home is eligible for a USDA loan before you can initiate talks with the seller. Fortunately, finding a USDA-eligible home does not have to be complicated.
You can use the property eligibility map on the USDA website or engage an experienced real estate agent to help speed up the process of identifying a suitable house.
Negotiate With the Seller
A preapproval shows you are a serious potential buyer, giving you leverage to negotiate with the seller from a strong position. Once you identify a suitable USDA-eligible home, you can begin talks with the seller or enlist a real estate agent to do the bidding on your behalf.
The negotiations should include inspection costs, appraisal fees, and the overall selling price of the house. Ensure all agreements, including the purchase contract, to avoid disappointments as you inch closer to striking a deal.
Complete Mortgage Underwriting
Mortgage underwriting begins immediately after handing the lender the purchase agreement. It is critical in any loan application process as it helps the lender evaluate the financial risks involved if you get the loan but default on payments. This thorough process entails evaluating your income, credit score, and property values to determine whether the risk involved is acceptable.
Fortunately, USDA loans are government-backed, meaning private lenders can rest assured they will recoup up to 90% of the amount issued if a borrower defaults on payments.
Get Final Loan Approval
The final approval is the last step before issuing your zero-down mortgage. It comes after the lender has completed the underwriting process and verified all your documents to ensure they are in line with the underwriter’s last review. If everything is in order, the lender will schedule closing with the seller and the title company to complete the purchase and close the deal. Interestingly, USDA loans allow you to use cash gifts or assistance funds to settle closing costs
USDA Loan Limits
USDA loan limits vary depending on the location of the single-family house you intend to buy and the type of zero-down mortgage applied.
In most cases, the USDA won’t state any limits on available loans. However, you should expect anywhere from $336,500 to $970,800 in USDA home financing options as of 2022.
Zero-Down Mortgages Pros and Cons
USDA zero-down mortgages have their fair share of upsides and downsides. However, the benefits of taking this loan undoubtedly outweigh the few shortcomings.
Pros of USDA Loans
No Down Payments - USDA loans are among the few home financing options with no down payments required. This home loan targets low-income borrowers, so you do not have to save for ages to raise the initial down payment.
100% Financing - With zero-down mortgages, you get up to 100% financing for an eligible decent single-family house in the countryside. You only need to meet the requested eligibility requirements to qualify for home financing.
Lower Interest Rates - USDA loans have some of the lowest interest rates in the market compared to traditional mortgages. Rates can drop to as low as 1%, and all USDA home loans are available as 30-year fixed-rate mortgages.
Stress-Free Homeownership Process - The journey to homeownership can be hectic and overwhelming. Fortunately, zero-down mortgages make the entire process a breeze with flexible credit guidelines.
Non-Stringent Eligibility Requirements - USDA loans do not have stringent eligibility requirements. Some lenders overlook qualifications such as credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, especially for guaranteed USDA home loans. Unlike other financing options, you don’t need cash reserves to apply and qualify for a zero-down mortgage.
- Open to First-Time and Repeat Buyers - USDA zero-down mortgage loans are open to first-time and repeat homebuyers so long as you meet the minimum eligibility requirements. You can apply for your second USDA loan as soon as you complete the first one.
Cons of USDA Loans
Property Must Be Within an Eligible Area - USDA loans have several geographic restrictions, and you must buy your preferred property in a designated rural area. Moreover, not all rural areas are eligible for purchasing a home using a USDA loan. The location must also have a population of 35,000 or less.
- Restrictive Income Limits - Some of the income limits are restrictive for specific locations. Your total household income must not exceed 115% of the median income for your preferred area, meaning you may miss out on your dream house if your earnings do not correspond with these figures.
Top Outdoor Activities in Lake County, Florida
Lake County, Florida, is one of the best places to live, work, and play. The county has dozens of great attractions and places of interest, making it the ideal destination for outdoor activities. If you’ve recently bought a home through the USDA loan, you can be sure to experience hours of endless fun as you enjoy the scenic beauty of this rural setting. Here are the top 5 things to do and places to visit in Lake County, Florida:
Take a Boat Tour Through the Dora Canal
Boat excursions are popular in Lake County, FL, thanks to the numerous lakes and water bodies. Lake Dora hosts several watersports and fun activities that you can indulge in, from wake surfing to fishing to tubing. If you enjoy boat rides, a tour through the Dora canal to the docks at Lakeside Inn will allow you to relax and enjoy the scenic views as you wade through the 5,000-acre lake.
Visit the Leesburg PEAR Park
Leesburg PEAR Park has the right setting for outdoor fun activities. This environmental and agricultural reserve features a nature trail, a biking trail, a butterfly garden, kids playing area, a dog park, and a basketball court, making it the ultimate destination for the entire family.
Fish on the Harris Chain of Lakes
Whether you are an experienced or a novice angler, fishing on the Harris Chain of Lakes offers endless fun. The chain comprises not less than eight lakes, covering over 75,000 acres. Besides, the large fish population makes it easy to get a catch, so you don’t have to whine about being a poor angler.
Enjoy a Trip to Venetian Gardens
A trip to the Venetian Gardens should be part of your outdoor itinerary if you want to rekindle your connection with nature. The gardens are located right in the middle of town for easy access and offer various art and cultural activities.
Tour the Historic Howey Mansion
A tour of Lake County is not complete without visiting the Historic Howey Mansion. This architectural gem has been around since 1927 and offers outdoor activities such as golf and horse-riding.
Get Preapproved Today!
Owning a home in Lake County, Florida, has never been easier, thanks to USDA zero-down mortgage loans. We can help you review your eligibility and credit information for preapproval. Contact us today to get your USDA loan preapproved and start your homeownership journey in earnest.