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USDA Loans in Florida

Reviewed by: David Naimey

Approved by: Chad Turner

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Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Palm Beach, FL might catch people’s attention but did you know that Jefferson County, FL is 100% rural as is Lafayette County? In these counties, you can get a USDA loan to buy a home with favorable terms and low-interest rates. More than 80% of the State of Florida qualifies as a rural area, which means you can buy a home in these locations with USDA funding, whether you are a first-time home buyer or not.

What Are USDA Loans?

USDA loans are backed by the United States Government and in particular by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help rural and suburban areas repopulate or hold on to their populations. 

The USDA Rural Development (USDA RD) is a government organization dedicated to helping rural communities thrive. For example, Rural Utilities Service (RUS) provides and maintains rural infrastructure, which is important for those considering buying property or choosing careers in rural areas instead of the city. With USDA housing loans, rural areas are given the opportunity to boost their activity levels and catch up with urban locations. 

USDA home loans are made for low to middle-income households looking to buy a home in areas featured on the USDA eligibility map. They require no down payment and come with fixed interest rates to help prospective homebuyers reach homeowners. 

With the help of Society Mortgage loan officers, you can get a home loan to finance your primary residence and enjoy homeownership in Florida on the most favorable terms. 

Benefits of a USDA Housing Loan in Florida

Bearing in mind how expensive housing has become across the United States, USDA family housing programs are a gateway to more affordable monthly payments

Farmers, in particular, can make the most of this rural housing service as they can buy homes near their field property and boost their living standards. Retirees and people working from home can also benefit from a USDA loan and enjoy living close to nature but only a short drive away to visit a larger city. 

While bustling cities often catch people’s attention, many designated rural areas are located close to Florida cities. You can purchase a home in a semi-rural RD area and be within driving distance of restaurants and entertainment. 

Low interest rates

USDA loans are secured by the U.S. Government — specifically by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a result, they come with lower interest rates. As interest rates increase the overall amount of money you pay for your mortgage, lower rates mean more money left in your pocket. 

Also, USDA interest rates are fixed. This helps homeowners budget their monthly expenses in a predictable way. There are no surprise rate increases. 

Affordable for low-income and very-low-income households

Tailored for average and low-income earners, Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loans provide an affordable way to secure homeownership, especially in the current property market boom. 

The RD also offers an option for very-low-income families, with the Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans or Section 502 Direct Loan Program, as it is also known. This program provides applicants with payment assistance to help them increase their repayment ability and reduce their monthly payment for a while. Multifamily Housing programs and loans are also available.

Zero down payment

Unlike traditional housing loans, which often demand a down payment ranging from 10% to 20%, the USDA loan program requires none. This is a boon for potential homeowners struggling to save up a significant amount. No down payment means more financial room to make home improvements and any remodeling that might be among the key priorities to make a home out of a house. 

Closing costs are included in the mortgage

Often, closing costs can accumulate up to 6% of the home’s value. With USDA RD home loans, these can be rolled into the mortgage. Many borrowers struggle to save up enough money for the closing costs, so a USDA home loan gives them less financial stress. 

USDA Loan Requirements in Florida

Credit score

A minimum credit score of 640 is typically required, paving the way for better interest rates. The better credit rating applicants have, the lower the interest rate on their USDA loan. 

USDA eligible areas

When you apply for a USDA loan, the property you wish to buy should be in a USDA-eligible area. Despite Florida’s many urban centers, a vast portion qualifies as rural, excluding major cities like Miami, Tampa, and Orlando. There are many USDA rural pockets close to cities where you can still get a government-backed USDA mortgage and enjoy the nearby urban lifestyle, as long as you stay within the USDA maximum loan amount limits. 

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) requirement

USDA rural development program loans in Florida require private mortgage insurance. There is an upfront fee of 1% of the RD home value and a yearly 0.35% insurance premium which is paid over 12 monthly payments. When you calculate how much your loan is going to cost you, you must factor in the PMI. 

Proof of employment

To be eligible for a USDA-guaranteed loan, you must show proof of steady income over the past two years. The monthly mortgage payment shouldn’t exceed 29% of this income. This will determine the level of your overall loan. 

Income thresholds

Based on household size, there are household income limits set by the USDA. In Florida, these differ from county to county and range from $110,650 to $164,750. The number of household members also influences the income threshold. 

Debt-to-Income Ratio

A debt-to-income ratio of up to 41% is generally acceptable. The fewer your other financial obligations, the better. 

Primary residence only

The property purchased with a USDA loan should be the borrower’s primary residence. You can’t finance rental housing and holiday homes. 

Preparing Your Application for a USDA Loan in Florida

Eligibility assessment

Before applying, review your financial situation. Pay down debts when possible to improve your credit score and debt-to-income ratio. The more financially responsible you are, the better your USDA loan terms will be. 

Loan application

File an application form through a USDA-approved lender, like Society Mortgage. Gather pay stubs, your credit score, and any other necessary documentation to help the loan servicing process go faster. 

Loan evaluation

Society Mortgage, as your housing-guaranteed lender, will review your application for a USDA loan. Once approved, you can start looking for a home in the designated areas. 

Property review

A USDA-endorsed appraiser will inspect the property you apply for to confirm it meets established safety and hygiene standards. 

Closing costs

After the chosen property passes appraisal, you can finalize your rural housing loan. Closing costs may apply, typically ranging between 2-6% of the property’s value.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Rural Development loan is typically used for financing a modest home that will be used as the borrower’s primary residence. It must be located in an eligible area. The property must also meet certain requirements related to safety, sanitation, and overall condition.

Florida USDA home loans are designated for residential properties and are not intended for purchasing a working farm. However, the USDA Farm Service Agency does have other loan programs through which you might be able to finance a farm.

Yes, USDA rural housing loans are not exclusively for first-time homeowners. Even if you have previously owned a home in Florida, you may qualify for a USDA loan provided you meet the other eligibility criteria, such as loan limits and property location. Contact us for more information on how to apply for a USDA loan for your new home.  

Homeowners with a conventional, non-USDA mortgage can’t use a USDA loan to refinance it. You can apply for a USDA refinance loan only if you already carry a USDA-guaranteed housing loan.  If you are interested in refinancing, call today and let us discuss other purchase or refinance federal funding opportunities available, such as an FHA loan. We can provide answers to any question you have on USDA, FHA, and any other government agency regulations, and advise you on the best option for you.

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