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

March 06, 2024 4-minute read

Author: Laura Gariepy


Home loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourage home buyers to buy property in eligible rural and suburban areas. If you’re not sure that an area you’re interested in qualifies for a USDA loan, use the USDA eligibility map to get your answer.

While Rocket Mortgage® doesn’t offer USDA loans or provide an interactive map tool, we’ll show you how to find it, access it and use it so you can verify whether a USDA loan is a viable financing option for your new house.

USDA Loan Programs Overview

USDA loans encourage home buyers to purchase homes in qualifying rural and suburban areas. The loans promote rural development by giving individuals and families with low- to moderate-income access to affordable housing.

The three main programs are:

  • Single-Family Housing Direct Home Loans
  • Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loans
  • Section 504 Single-Family Repair Loans and Grants

See What You Qualify For


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What Are USDA Eligibility Maps?

USDA eligibility maps – also known as USDA home loan maps, USDA property eligibility maps, USDA mortgage maps or USDA loan maps – show which areas have properties that qualify for a USDA loan. These geographic charts let you check the eligibility of desired parcels before you get too deep into the research process.

These maps are primarily based on population density and may be updated annually to reflect any changes.

How To Use USDA Loan Eligibility Maps In Your Area

Using a USDA loan eligibility map is relatively straightforward. Head to the USDA income and property eligibility site. Click on one of the USDA loan program links at the top of the page. When prompted, enter the address of the property you want to buy.


A thumbtack will appear on the screen that pins the location, and you’ll receive an instant answer on the property’s eligibility. Ineligible areas are shaded in red. Depending on where you’re searching, you may see eligible areas nearby. If the property seems to be on the border between an eligible and ineligible area, contact the USDA Rural Development office for clarification.

Please note that the USDA property eligibility map is an informational tool. It doesn’t guarantee accuracy. To ensure the USDA-designated property qualifies for the loan program, it must meet USDA loan requirements.

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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 the funds to build or renovate a home. Here are some key USDA direct loan features:

  • No down payment requirement: A USDA direct loan doesn’t require a down payment unless a borrower has too many assets.
  • Fixed interest rates: Borrowers can receive a fixed interest rate between 1% and 625%, depending on the USDA loan they apply for. The lowest rate is only available if a borrower qualifies for payment assistance.
  • Longer loan terms: USDA direct loans have 33-year or 38-year terms. The 38-year term is only available to very low-income borrowers. USDA home improvement loans have 20-year terms.

At closing, you’ll pay a guarantee fee or fold it into your mortgage. The fee equals up to 1% of a borrower’s total loan amount and funds the USDA loan program. If you receive payment assistance and then move or sell the property, you must repay the assistance you received.

Property Eligibility Requirements For USDA Loans

Please note that this isn’t an exhaustive list of requirements. For the details in your area, reach out to your nearest USDA Rural Development office.

The general eligibility guidelines for the USDA loan program include that the property must be:

In A Rural Area

Properties purchased with a USDA loan must be in an approved rural area. A rural area is generally defined as a region outside a major city with fewer than 35,000 residents.

USDA loans aim to assist low- and moderate-income households in rural areas. Many small towns and suburbs just outside of metropolitan areas also qualify as rural under these guidelines.

A Primary Residence

To qualify for a USDA loan, you must agree to use the home as a primary residence. It can’t be a vacation or investment property. Borrowers can use a variety of property types as a primary residence, including:

A Modest Size

USDA loans are supposed to help home buyers purchase modest-sized homes. The USDA typically defines modest size as less than 2,000 square feet.

However, you should know there’s no limit to the parcel size, meaning there’s no limit to the amount of land the home sits on.

Structurally Sound And Fully Functional

The property must meet certain safety requirements to qualify for a USDA loan. It must have a structurally sound foundation, an adequate roofing system and contain all major systems, including heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical.

Have No In-Ground Swimming Pool

You can’t use a USDA loan to purchase a home with an in-ground pool or other prohibited amenities.

Pass USDA Lender Appraisal Guidelines

The property must pass an appraisal before a lender can approve a USDA loan. The appraisal estimates the home’s fair market value and ensures that it meets minimum property requirements. An appraiser typically:

  • Verifies the home is up to code
  • Establishes the home’s square footage
  • Establishes the number of beds and bedrooms
  • Confirms there are no income-generating structures or prohibited amenities

The home buyer typically pays for the USDA appraisal, but this will depend on the lender.

USDA Borrower Credit And Income Requirements

You don’t need to meet a specific credit score requirement to qualify for a USDA home loan. However, you’ll have a better chance at approval and a smoother underwriting process if your score is 640 or higher.

You’ll also need to demonstrate your ability to repay the loan and your financial need. The program has income limits. Your household income can’t exceed 115% of an area’s median income.

You can also check your USDA income eligibility here.

The Bottom Line

USDA eligibility maps can help determine whether you can finance your target property with a USDA loan. The maps are fast and easy to use, simplifying the research portion of the home buying process.

Rocket Mortgage doesn’t offer USDA loans, but if you’re leaning toward this type of loan, learn more about USDA loan closing costs and the different strategies borrowers can use to cover the fees.

Explore your down payment options.

Start by getting approved to buy a home.

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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.