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FHA Loans: Requirements, Loan Limits And Rates

Jul 1, 2024



If you’re starting out on the home buying journey, you might have heard of FHA loans, but what does “FHA” stand for and why should you consider this type of loan? A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan might be a good option if you have debt or a lower credit score. You might even be able to get an FHA loan with a bankruptcy or other financial issue on your record.

Let’s take a closer look at FHA home loans, their requirements and whether an FHA loan might be right for you.

What Is An FHA Loan?

FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, an agency under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). FHA loans are insured by the FHA, which simply means that the owners of your mortgage are protected against loss if you default on your loan.

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How Do FHA Loans Work?

FHA loans allow home buyers to borrow up to a certain percentage of a home’s value, depending on their credit score. Home buyers with a credit score at or above 580 can borrow up to 96.5% of a home’s value. While borrowers with credit scores of 500 – 579 may still qualify for an FHA loan with a 10% down payment, many lenders have their own minimum credit score requirements. Rocket Mortgage® requires a minimum credit score of 580 for FHA loans.

While FHA loans are available with low down payment options and a lower minimum credit score than most other types of home loans, you’ll have to pay a mortgage insurance premium.

Credit Score, Maximum Amounts And Down Payments For FHA Loans

Credit Score Maximum Loan Amount Minimum Down Payment


96.5% of home value

3.5% of purchase price

500 – 579

90% of home value

10% of purchase price

Why Are FHA Loans Attractive?

Low down payment and lenient credit score requirements often make FHA loans attractive for home buyers, especially first-time home buyers.

Here are some benefits of FHA loans:

  • Credit score requirements are low compared to most other loans.
  • Your lender can accept a low down payment.
  • Qualifying for an FHA loan can still be possible even if you have a bankruptcy or other financial issues in your financial history.
  • FHA closing costs can often be rolled into your loan.

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FHA Loan Requirements

Borrowers must meet certain requirements to qualify for an FHA loan. For example:

  • The home you consider must be appraised by an FHA-approved appraiser.
  • You can only get a new FHA loan for your primary residence, which means it can’t be an investment property or second home.
  • You must occupy the property within 60 days of closing.
  • The loan requires an inspection, and the inspection must report whether it meets minimum property standards.


There are a few more specific conditions to qualify, including a down payment amount, mortgage insurance, credit score, loan limits and income requirements. We’ll explore these conditions in more depth below.

FHA Loan Down Payments

Your down payment is a percentage of the purchase price of a home and is the amount you put down for that home. The minimum down payment you’re required to make on an FHA loan is directly linked to your credit score. Your credit score is a number ranging from 300 – 850 that’s used to indicate your creditworthiness.

An FHA loan requires a minimum 3.5% down payment for credit scores of 580 and higher. If you can make a 10% down payment, your credit score can be in the 500 – 579 range. Rocket Mortgage® requires a minimum credit score of 580 for FHA loans. A mortgage calculator can help you estimate your monthly payments, and you can also see how your down payment amount affects them.

Note that cash down payments can be made with gift assistance for an FHA loan, but they must be well-documented to ensure the assistance is truly a gift and not a loan in disguise.

FHA Mortgage Insurance

You’ll pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for all FHA loans – similar to private mortgage insurance (PMI) for a conventional loan. Mortgage insurance protects your lender against losses if you default on your loan.

How Long Do You Have To Pay Mortgage Insurance For An FHA Loan?

In most cases, you pay mortgage insurance for the life of an FHA loan. The exception is if you made a down payment of at least 10% – in that case, MIP would be on the loan for the first 11 years). FHA loan mortgage insurance is first charged as an upfront mortgage insurance premium, which normally amounts to 1.75% of your loan amount.

FHA borrowers also pay an annual mortgage insurance premium, which is based on the term (length) of your mortgage, your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, your total mortgage amount and the size of your down payment. Annual MIP payments run approximately 0.15% – 0.75% of the loan amount.

FHA Loans Credit Score

Several factors determine your credit score, including:

  • The type of credit you have (credit cards, loans, etc.)
  • Credit utilization, which is how much credit you use
  • Whether you pay your bills on time
  • The amount you owe on your credit cards
  • How much new and recent credit you’ve taken on

FHA Home Loan DTI

If you have a higher credit score, you might qualify with a higher debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. DTI is your total monthly debt payments divided by your monthly gross income (your monthly income before taxes). This figure is expressed as a percentage.

How To Calculate Your DTI

To determine your DTI, divide your debts by your monthly gross income. For example, if your debts – which include your student loans and car loan – reach $2,000 per month and your income is $8,000 per month, your DTI is 25%.

The lower your DTI, the better off you’ll be. If you have a higher DTI, you could still qualify for an FHA loan if you have a higher credit score.

The FHA says your monthly mortgage payment should be no more than 31% of your monthly gross income. Meanwhile, your DTI should not exceed 43% of monthly gross income in certain circumstances if your loan is being manually underwritten. As noted above, you may qualify with a higher DTI if you have a higher credit score.

FHA Income Requirements

Your eligibility for an FHA loan doesn’t hinge on a particular income amount, but you must prove you have a steady employment history. Your income must be verifiable by sharing pay stubs, W-2s, federal tax returns and bank statements with your lender. Your lender may ask for other examples of verification as well.

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FHA Loan Limits

There’s a maximum limit to what you can borrow for an FHA loan, depending on the county the home is in.

According to HUD, the maximum FHA lending amount for high-cost areas (such as large metropolitan areas) is $1,149,825 for 2024. In lower-cost areas, the FHA limits are based on county, but generally, for one-unit properties the 2024 limit is $498,257. If you have multiple units, limits may be higher.

You can look up the FHA mortgage limits for one or more areas on the FHA mortgage limits page. The page also includes a median sale price value for each area. Those are the median price estimates used for loan limit determination, according to HUD.

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FHA Interest Rates

FHA interest rates can be competitive compared to conventional mortgage rates. This is because the government-backing allows lenders to offer you a lower rate. The rate depends on several factors, including national mortgage interest rates, your income and credit score, the amount you plan to borrow, your down payment amount and your DTI.

Types Of FHA Home Loans

There are several types of FHA loans. The type you choose limits the type of home you can buy and how you can spend the money you receive. This makes it especially important to be sure you’re getting the right type of loan. If none of the loan types discussed next match your goals, you might want to consider another type of government loan.


When purchasing a home, you can put as little as 3.5% down if you have a median FICO® Score of 580. If you have a score that low, you’ll need to keep an equally low DTI. Rocket Mortgage requires a ratio of no more than 38% before your mortgage payment is included, and no more than 45% once it’s included.

If your median FICO® Score is 620 or higher, you may be able to qualify with a higher DTI. In no event will your DTI be able to rise above 57%.

At Rocket Mortgage, you can purchase up to a two-unit property with an FHA loan.

FHA Rate-And-Term Refinances

Let’s say you have a different type of mortgage and interest rates are falling. Perhaps you’re interested in refinancing to take advantage of better mortgage rates but your credit profile has taken a hit.

An FHA refinance could be a good option because of its less stringent credit requirements. You can use this to lower your rate or change your term with a FICO® Score median as low as 580, assuming you have a low DTI. You may be able to carry more debt into the transaction if your median FICO® is 620 or higher.

Depending on the amount of equity you carry into the rate-and-term refinance, you could end up paying mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan in addition to an upfront premium. If you’re already in an FHA loan, you can save some money on your rate-and-term transaction.

FHA Streamline

An FHA Streamline Refinance allows homeowners with an FHA loan to do a rate-and-term refinance with a few special benefits. To begin with, you may be able to refinance to a lower rate.

The logic here is that if you have a more affordable payment, you’re more likely to stay in your home and pay it off, which is good for the FHA. You’ll also usually be able to get a lower mortgage insurance rate because the MIP for FHA Streamlines is 0.55% of your loan amount each year. Additionally, the upfront MIP is only 0.01%.

Another benefit of FHA Streamlines is reduced documentation. Every situation is different, but because you already have an existing FHA loan, you may need less documentation for:

  • The appraisal
  • Employment verification
  • Income and assets

FHA Streamline Requirements

If you don’t have an existing home loan with Rocket Mortgage, we require a 640 median FICO® Score. If your loan is with us, the required median FICO® Score is 580.

Timing is also important: You must make at least six payments on your current loan before you can be approved for a Streamline. Also, at least 210 days must pass between the first payment you make on your current loan and the first payment on the new Streamline.

Finally, you have to be up to date on your loan. For the purposes of an FHA Streamline, that means having no 30-day late payments in the last 6 months and only one payment that’s 30 days late in the last year.

FHA Cash-Out Refinance

It’s also possible to get a cash-out refinance with an FHA loan. Rocket Mortgage requires a minimum median credit score of 620 for an FHA cash-out refinance. The FHA requires that if you convert your property value into cash, you leave at least 15% equity in your home.

If you’re doing a cash-out refinance, you’ll need full documentation of income and assets, as well as employment verification.

FHA 203(k) Loan

While Rocket Mortgage doesn’t offer this particular loan, an FHA 203(k) loan allows you to buy a home and make renovations on a single loan. While it’s possible to only make renovations with a 203(k) loan, this usually isn’t your most affordable choice.

The minimum FHA 203(k) loan balance is $5,000, so you can’t borrow less than this. Any home repairs or improvements you make must conclude within 6 months in order to stay within your loan terms.

Some eligible projects you can complete with a 203(k) loan include:

  • Replacing old or dangerous flooring
  • Making improvements to the home’s modernization (This can include adding systems such as central air.)
  • Adding or replacing roofing, sections of gutters or plumbing
  • Making accessibility improvements for disabled people who live in the home
  • Making structural repairs and changes to the home’s foundation

There are two types of 203(k) loans: Standard loans and Limited loans. Limited loans require less paperwork for approval, while Standard loans give you more freedom to repair your property.

FHA Vs. Conventional Loans

A conventional loan is a common alternative to an FHA loan. Though conventional mortgages  have stricter requirements, broadly speaking, they typically come with similar interest rates and more flexible mortgage insurance (that ends when you reach 20% home equity), which is why borrowers often consider refinancing their FHA loan to a conventional loan.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between conventional and FHA loans:

  Conventional Mortgage Loan FHA Loan

Minimum Down Payment



Loan Terms

Ranging from 8 – 30 years

Fewer options than conventional but several options between 15 and 30 years

Minimum Credit Score To Qualify


500 with a 10% down payment; 580 and above with only a 3.5% down payment

Loan Limits

$766,550 in most areas; up to $1,149,825 in high-cost areas for a single unit

$498,257 (low-cost area) and $1,149,825 (high-cost area) for a single-family home, depending on location

Mortgage Insurance

PMI if down payment is less than 20%; no PMI if down payment is at least 20%

MIP upfront and monthly insurance throughout the life of the loan (or 11 years with a down payment of 10% or more)

Relative Interest Rate

Comparable to FHA, depending on borrower qualifications

Comparable to conventional, depending on borrower qualifications

Interest Structure

Fixed or adjustable rate

Fixed or adjustable rate

Who Backs The Loan?

Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac usually buy and guarantee the loan

Backed by FHA

Is An FHA Loan Right For You?

If you’re still debating the pros and cons of an FHA loan compared to a conventional loan, remember that a conventional loan isn’t government-backed. Conventional loans are offered through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which are government-sponsored enterprises that provide mortgage funds to lenders.

Here are a few of the main factors to consider when deciding whether to take out an FHA loan.

Stricter Requirements

Besides minimum down payment, conventional loans have more stringent requirements than FHA loans, so you may need a higher credit score and a lower DTI to qualify. FHA loans, on the other hand, are non-conforming loans. This means they don’t satisfy Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s requirements for purchase.

Closing Costs

Regardless of whether you choose a conventional or FHA loan, there are a few other costs to consider. You’ll have to pay closing costs, which are the fees associated with processing and securing your loan. Closing costs are typically 3% – 6% of your home loan amount.

Home Maintenance Costs

You should also budget 1% – 3% of your purchase price for maintenance. The exact percentage depends on the age of the house. If your house is newer, odds are that you’ll need fewer immediate repairs. But, you may need to set aside more money for an older house. Finally, if you live in an area with homeowners association fees, you’ll pay them on a monthly or yearly basis.


Still looking to learn more about FHA loans? Here are the answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions.

Is an FHA loan right for me?

An FHA loan might be the right loan option for you if you’re a first-time home buyer or having trouble getting a loan due to your financial history. However, it’s always important to weigh the pros and cons of any loan option before you fully commit to one. Make sure you’re aware of all other costs associated with FHA loans and that you’re financially prepared to pay them.

How do I apply for an FHA loan?

Once you choose the mortgage lender you’d like to work with, you can apply for an FHA loan. After you provide all of the necessary documents (tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, etc.) to your lender, they’ll submit your application and work on a loan estimate.

Who qualifies for an FHA loan?

As with every loan, borrowers must meet certain requirements to qualify for an FHA loan. Borrowers must prove they have a steady employment history by showing pay stubs, W-2s, federal tax returns and bank statements. In addition:

  • The home must be appraised by an FHA-approved appraiser.
  • The home has to be a primary residence.
  • You must occupy the property within 60 days of closing.
  • An FHA inspection is required, and the inspection must report whether the property meets minimum property standards.

You’ll also need to make a down payment, pay mortgage insurance and have a minimum credit score.

Is it hard to get an FHA loan?

FHA loans are designed to make the path to homeownership easier. Thanks to an FHA loan’s low minimum credit score requirement, lenient down payment requirement and numerous loan programs, prospective homeowners should find it easier to get an FHA loan than a conventional loan.

The Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a loan with lenient credit score and DTI requirements and don’t have a lot to put toward a down payment, an FHA loan might be right for you. If you’re ready to begin your home buying journey, start your initial mortgage approval online today with Rocket Mortgage.


Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.