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USDA Eligibility Maps: What They Are And How To Use Them

Laura Gariepy3-minute read

June 25, 2021

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You’re interested in learning more about home loans from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but you’re not sure if your target area qualifies. Fortunately, a USDA eligibility map can help you determine if it does. While Rocket Mortgage® does not offer USDA loans or provide this tool, we’ll show you how to access and use it. That way, you can learn if a USDA loan is a viable financing option for your new house.

What Does ‘Property Eligibility’ Mean?

Property eligibility refers to whether a parcel of land qualifies for the USDA’s direct rural housing loan program. Under this program, low-income home buyers can secure affordable housing in select areas using the government as their lender. Borrowers may also use funds to build or renovate a dwelling. Here are some key USDA direct loan features:

  • No down payment required (unless you have too many assets)
  • A fixed interest rate between 1% – 2.50% (lowest rate is only available if you qualify for payment assistance)
  • Loan terms of 33 or 38 years (The 38-year term is only available if you have very low income. Renovation loans come with a 20-year term.)

If you receive payment assistance and then move or sell the property, you’ll have to repay the amount given to you. Plus, you’ll have to pay up to 1% of the original loan balance as a guarantee fee at closing – or roll it into your mortgage. This fee funds the USDA loan program.

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Property Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the USDA loan program, a property must be:

  • Located in a rural area (generally defined as a region outside of a major city with fewer than 35,000 residents)
  • Used as a primary residence only, not for income-generating endeavors
  • Less than 2,000 square feet in size (typically)
  • Structurally sound and fully functional – including major systems like plumbing and electric
  • Without an in-ground swimming pool

Please note: This isn’t an exhaustive list of requirements. For the full scoop in your area, reach out to your nearest USDA Rural Development location.

USDA Credit & Income Requirements

You don’t need to meet a specific credit score requirement to qualify for a USDA home loan. However, you have a better chance of getting approved (and going through a smoother underwriting process) if your score is 640 or better.

Plus, to be eligible for the mortgage, you must be able to demonstrate both your ability to repay the loan and your financial need. The program has an income limit, so your household income cannot exceed 115% of the median income in your target location.

You can check your USDA income eligibility here.

What Are USDA Eligibility Maps?

USDA eligibility maps are maps that show you which areas have properties that may qualify for a USDA loan. Also known as USDA home loan maps, USDA property eligibility maps, USDA mortgage maps, or USDA loan maps, these geographic charts let you check desired parcels for eligibility before getting too deep into the research process. These maps are primarily created based on area population and may get updated on an annual basis.

How To Use USDA Loan Eligibility Maps In Your Area

Using a USDA loan eligibility map is a breeze. First, go to the USDA’s interactive map. Then, enter the address of a property you’re thinking about buying.

You’ll see a thumbtack appear on the screen to mark the location and receive an instant answer on whether the property is in an eligible area. Ineligible areas will be shaded in red. Depending on where you’re searching, you may see eligible areas nearby. If the parcel seems to be on the line between an eligible and ineligible area, you may want to contact the USDA Rural Development office for clarification.

Please note: The USDA property eligibility map is an informational tool only and doesn’t guarantee accuracy. To ensure that your desired property qualifies for the loan program, you’ll have to apply for the mortgage officially.

The Bottom Line

USDA eligibility maps can help you determine if a target property may be able to get financed with a USDA loan. They’re fast and easy to use, simplifying the research portion of the home buying process. While Rocket Mortgage does not offer USDA loans, if you’re leaning toward this type of loan, be sure to read our article on USDA loan closing costs.

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Laura Gariepy

Laura Gariepy is the Owner of Every Day by the Lake, LLC, a freelance written content creation company that helps busy business owners stay top of mind with their target audience. She is also a coach to aspiring freelancers and has recently launched a signature private coaching program called Before You Go Freelance. When not writing or coaching, Laura loves to travel and spend time by the lake with her family.

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