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USDA Loans in Manatee County, Florida: Learn How to Obtain a Zero Down Mortgage

Welcome home to Manatee County, FL, one of Florida's oldest and most established areas. With deep Florida history, a thriving economy, and communities built for families, Manatee is the perfect destination for settling down in your dream home in any of the suburban or rural regions in the county.

Not only will you find gorgeous communities and homesites for designing your new home, but this area also offers many breathtaking places to explore. From award-winning beaches, historic places, and local parks to incredible dining and shopping options, there's so much to love about buying a home here.

However, it is a sad fact that most homebuyers don't get to live in this fantastic place because they can't afford the home costs. If you fall in this category, getting a low or moderate income, we have good news for you: you may be able to live here if you qualify for a USDA home loan!

Here's everything you need to know about obtaining a zero-down mortgage, including what makes it worthwhile and how to apply for it.

What Are USDA Loans?

The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) home loan is a mortgage loan made or guaranteed by the USDA's Rural Housing Service agency to help low- or moderate-income residents buy safe and affordable houses in rural areas.

This home loans program is designed to help lower-income individuals living in unsafe or unhealthy rural conditions get home with adequate space and modern utilities.

Depending on your circumstance, the program can offer you two options: a direct loan from the government or a federal loan guarantee through a commercial bank. Both programs offer 100% home financing to eligible borrowers.

What Makes USDA Loans Worthwhile?

Did you know you can purchase a home without putting a single dollar on the closing table? While this may sound too good to be true, the USDA loan helps potential homebuyers realize their homeownership dreams with several perks not found in any other mortgage plan.

Here are top reasons why you should apply for a USDA loan.

Zero Down Payment

Hefty down payments are often a barrier for many individuals looking to buy a home. Lenders usually calculate down payments as a percentage of the total borrowed amount. For instance, if you buy a house for $250,000 and have a 15% down payment, you'll bring $37,500 to the table at closing.

As the name suggests, a zero down payment is a loan you get without a down payment. So, unlike other mortgage loans, you won't have to provide a down payment for a USDA loan.

No USDA Loan Amount Limits

The USDA loan program will allow you to finance what you can afford to pay, depending on your income and debts. Unlike FHA or conventional loans, USDA home loan programs don't come with any official set loan limits. Instead, the loan amount you qualify for will be related directly to your ability to repay it depending on your debt to income ratios (DTI).

This is the percentage of your total monthly income (before taxes) that goes towards clearing rent bills, mortgage loans, credit cards, and other debts. A low DTI ratio demonstrates a good balance between your debts and income. On the contrary, a high DTI ratio signals that you have too much debt for the income you earn each month.

Generally, 43% is the highest DTI ratio you can have and still qualify for a loan. Ideally, lenders prefer a DTI ratio of not more than 36%, with less than 28% of your debt going towards servicing a rent or mortgage payment.

Low Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Premiums

Private Mortgage Insurance protects lenders against any loss from defaulting borrowers. Most home loans with minimum down payments (less than 20%) usually attract PMI premiums. On average, many loan programs require you to pay anywhere from 0.22% - 2.25% of your mortgage to cover these premiums.

Lucky for you, USDA loans are backed by the government, making PMI unnecessary. However, they come with two charges: the annual fees and the upfront guarantee. You can expect to pay 0.5% of the average unpaid principal mortgage balance as the annual fee and 3.5% of the principal obligation as the upfront guarantee.

Lower Interest Rates

Interest rates on USDA home loans are typically lower than FHA or Conventional loan rates. This is good news, especially for borrowers with low credit scores, because they receive the same low rates as those with excellent credit scores.

Streamlined Refinancing Process

USDA's streamlined assist refinance mortgage program speeds up the process to about three weeks for borrowers looking to refinance their loan. You won't need a home appraisal, credit reports, or a property inspection.

Types of USDA Mortgage Loans

Generally, the United States Department of Agriculture offers three types of mortgage loans for homebuyers. Below is a breakdown of each:

USDA Direct Loan

Also referred to as the Section 502 Direct Loan Program, a USDA Direct Loan is a mortgage that comes directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This home loan program is specially designed for low- to very-low-income borrowers who can't access quality housing in suburban and rural areas and can't qualify for an affordable mortgage from other loan sources.

The program may offer payment assistance that you receive to both qualify for a loan and help bring monthly loan payments down. The exact amount of assistance will depend on your family size and income.

For single-family homes, you can apply for USDA's Single Family Direct Home Loans Program, which offers a fixed interest rate, depending on the payment assistance. These loans typically come with 33 or 38-year terms based on income level.

For multifamily homes, you'd go through the Multifamily Housing Direct Loans program, which helps build rental houses for very-low- to moderate-income individuals and families, people with disabilities, or older people aged 62 and older. These loans last for 30 years and boast competitive interest rates. You may use this loan to repair, build and buy multifamily rental housing for the elderly, disabled, and low-income families.

USDA Guaranteed Loan

The USDA Guaranteed Loan Program is for moderate - to low-income borrowers in suburban and rural areas. As the name implies, this program guarantees 90% of your loan amount if you qualify for a home mortgage loan through a third-party lender or a bank.

The housing guarantee program for single-family homes works with third-party lenders to offer financial assistance to low and moderate-income borrowers in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will guarantee up to 90% of your mortgage to minimize the risks to lenders offering 100% financing. Like the Direct Loan, this program also offers zero down payment.

Like the Single-Family Housing Guarantee Program, the multifamily housing program works with third-party lenders to finance more affordable housing for low and moderate-income borrowers who want to buy a home in the rural parts of Manatee County.

USDA Home Improvement Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers homebuyers the Section 504 Home Repair program to finance home improvements for low-income borrowers in rural areas. To qualify for this program, you must have a family income of less than 50% of Manatee's median income and be unable to get affordable credit elsewhere. Plus, you may receive a grant through this program if you're 62 years old and can't afford a repair loan.

Close up of young african american man hand hold bunch of keys

What Are the USDA Loan Qualifications?

Are you planning to apply for a USDA home loan and buy a home in Manatee County? If so, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the USDA requirements for this region beforehand. Here's a breakdown of all the USDA loan qualifications.

Home Location Requirements

USDA loans are specially designed to help low and moderate-income borrowers own modest, decent homes in eligible rural areas. Qualifying suburban and rural areas fall into the following categories:

  • Places with a maximum of 10,000 residents. However, a place may still qualify as a rural area if it has a population of 10,000+ residents, provided it's not a significant statistical area (MSA)

  • Localities that are not in the MSA and have a population of 20,000 or less

  • Areas with a severe lack of mortgage loan credit options for low- and moderate-income borrowers

Note that only Rural Development can determine eligible properties and locations. If you plan to buy a home in Manatee County, you can check whether your preferred city qualifies by visiting the USDA website eligibility page.

Property Eligibility

You can only get a USDA home loan if the home you want to buy will be your principal residence, not a vacation property, an income house, or even a second home. This means you must use your new home as your primary living place.

Moreover, the house should have sufficient structural integrity, functional heating, and cooling systems and be easily accessible from a paved or an all-weather road. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also requires the property you plan to purchase to have adequate access to wastewater systems, functional plumbing, and sewage disposal systems and provide adequate living space.

Minimum Credit Score

The USDA doesn't require home buyers to have a specific FICO score. However, many lenders offering USDA- guaranteed loans only allow borrowers with a score of 640+ to apply.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an automated underwriting system to approve individuals with a minimum score of 640. So, does this mean you can't qualify for a USDA home loan if you have a low credit score? Not really.

You may still get financial assistance, but you'll have to use the manual USDA home loan underwriting system. Factors that increase your chances of getting a USDA loan even with a low FICO score include:

  • High rent payments
  • Stable or consistent employment history
  • Low debt-to-income ratio
  • Assets like cash reserves

If you can't establish your score because you've never taken out a loan or credit card, other non-traditional tradelines can help prove your ability to meet loan payment obligations. These include auto insurance policies, utilities, educational costs, gym memberships, and rent payments.

Income Requirements

Generally, USDA home loans are for families and individuals who demonstrate economic need, meaning your adjusted gross income can't exceed 15% of the median income in Manatee County. You can check whether your income is eligible through the USDA's eligibility site by choosing Income Eligibility from the menu.

To qualify, you must also prove that you have a stable flow of income and make your loan payments without going against the agreement for at least 12 months. In addition, your lender will look at your DTI ratio before considering you for a USDA loan. To increase your chances of qualifying, strive to have a DTI of 43% or less.

You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by dividing your monthly recurring debts by your total monthly income. Your monthly expenses can include credit card payments, rent, and student and auto loan payments; you don't have to include expenses for utilities and food.

Buying a Home in Central Florida? Your Guide to the Benefits of Living in Manatee County

Are you planning to become a Manatee County homeowner? There are several ways to enjoy the great outdoors - fishing, shopping, hiking, or just soaking up the sun. Take one sweeping look at the county's lush nature parks, abundant sunshine, and the crystalline emerald-gulf waters, and you'll never want to stay indoors again.

Here are the top outdoor activities in Manatee County.

Bird Watching

There's much more to the great outdoors of Manatee County than beaches. From the breathtaking preserves to the natural wildlife, it's time to explore the county's best wilderness spots.

One of the best birdwatching spots in Manatee is Myakka River, State Park. This park is home to abundant flora and fauna and features about 60 square miles of wetlands, prairies, pinelands, and hammocks. Here, you can expect to see raptors, migratory species, wading birds, and more.


Do you picture spending time in a camp tent erected outdoors as you enjoy the scenic view of your campground? If so, you'll love your experience at Manatee County. Manatee county's Parks and Recreational Department has several wilderness parks supporting camping, such as the Lake Manatee State Park.

This park is located on the southeastern part of Lake Manatee and offers visitors convenient and affordable camp accommodations near the lake. It consists of 60 sites that can perfectly fit RV equipment of up to 65 feet in length. The place offers excellent paddling, hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing.


Manatee County boasts some of the best fishing opportunities, including inshore, offshore, and freshwater fishing. From Grouper to Mahi Mahi, Bluegill to Largemouth Bass, you can rest assured of reeling in the big one—or having a fantastic time trying! The miles of pristine coastline and unique geography mean you'll never run out of angling options on your stay or subsequent visit.


Sitting at the heart of Florida, Manatee County boasts trails that explore the wooded uplands of the county as well as its mangrove-lined coast. From Sarasota to Bradenton, there are miles of scenic preserved hiking trails for you and your family to explore. And with Florida's fantastic year-round weather, you can enjoy these trails all year.

Quick Point Nature Preserve has some of the best hiking trails your family can enjoy. This 34-acre park boasts short and easy trails excellent for individuals who crave an easy and breezy walk around the beach. Quiet trails and tidal pools offer the best opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Experience History and Culture

Rich history, beautiful scenery, vibrant culture, and a thriving economy await you in Manatee County. If you love history and culture, you can break up your long workday with a visit to Bradenton City, which offers a rich array of various art forms.

For starters, you can visit the Village of the Arts, Florida's largest community of artists, which features more than 30 cafes, businesses, studios, and galleries in restored 1920s' and '30s' cottages. Other places of interest include the LECOM Park, Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat, and the Lakewood Ranch.

Are USDA Loans Right for You?

USDA loans help make buying a home more affordable in the rural and suburban parts of Manatee County. You'll still pay closing costs, but if you qualify, you'll have no down payment and get a low-interest rate.

While this program is more affordable than traditional home loans, it's only available to those who don't exceed the set income limits and purchase a house in a designated suburban or rural area. If you're above the income threshold and want to buy a home in the city, you may need to explore other mortgage options.

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

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