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USDA Loan Property Eligibility Requirements

USDA loans come with some big-time benefits, including $0 down payment and looser credit guidelines than other loan types. But not all homes are eligible for USDA financing.

USDA loans have property eligibility requirements rooted in the program's mission to boost rural communities nationwide. For a property to be eligible for a USDA loan, it must meet the basic eligibility requirements set forth by the USDA, which cover rural area designation, occupancy, and the physical condition of the home.

The good news is that most of the country is in what the USDA considers a qualified rural area. But it's important for prospective buyers to check a home's eligibility status before getting too far into the process.

Below we take an in-depth look at the USDA's rural property requirements, the USDA's map of eligible locations and the specific property requirements you must follow when using a USDA loan.

USDA Property Eligibility Index

  1. USDA Loan Property Eligibility Map
  2. Verifying Your Address for a USDA Loan
  3. What is Considered a "Rural" Area?
  4. Minimum USDA Property Requirements
  5. Specific USDA Home Requirements
  6. Other USDA Eligibility Requirements

USDA Loan Property Eligibility Map

You can use this interactive map to help determine if a home currently meets the USDA's property eligibility requirements. Areas in red are not currently eligible for a USDA-backed loan.

Property eligibility areas can change annually and are based on population size and other factors. This map is a helpful guide, but the USDA will make a final determination about property eligibility once there's a complete loan application.

If your prospective home falls near or in an area that does not appear to meet the rural designation, a USDA-approved lender can verify the address through the USDA's online portal.

To verify your address for a USDA loan, it is best to speak with a USDA-approved lender. A USDA-approved lender can verify all properties you are interested in and ensure you don't waste valuable time on properties that may not be eligible.

More:Connect with a USDA lender.

What is a "Rural" Area?

For a home to meet the USDA's rural definition, it must be in an area that's located outside of a town or city and not associated with an urban area

The USDA's guidelines on the definition of a qualified "rural area" includes:

  • A population that doesn't exceed 10,000, or
  • A population that doesn't exceed 20,000; is not located in a metropolitan statistical area (MSA); and has a serious lack of mortgage credit for low- to moderate-income families, or
  • Any area that was once classified as "rural" or a "rural area" and lost its designation due to the 1990, 2000 or 2010 Census may still be eligible if the area's population does not exceed 35,000; the area is rural in character; and the area has a serious lack of mortgage credit for low- and moderate-income families.

These guidelines are generous in the sense that many small towns and suburbs of metropolitan areas fall within the requirements.

See if you are eligible for a USDA loan here.

Minimum USDA Property Requirements

The USDA wants to ensure that the home you choose meets certain property requirements to protect the borrower's interest and well-being.

First and foremost, the home must serve as your primary residence. Fortunately, many property types are eligible for USDA loans apart from purchasing a pre-existing home, such as:

  • New construction
  • Manufactured or modular homes
  • Condos and townhouses
  • Short sales and foreclosed homes

USDA loans cannot be used for investment properties, meaning farms, rental or vacation homes, and other income-producing properties aren't eligible. However, a property with acreage, barns, silos and so forth that are no longer in commercial use may still qualify.

More:Owning more than one property with a USDA loan.

Specific USDA Home Requirements

The USDA requires the home to be structurally sound, functionally adequate and in good repair. To verify the home is in good repair, a qualified appraiser will inspect and certify that the home meets current minimum property requirements set forth in HUD's Single Family Housing Policy Handbook.

A few of these standards include:

  • Access to the property: The property should be easily accessible from a paved or all-weather road surface.
  • Structurally sound: The foundation and home must be structurally sound for the life of the mortgage.
  • Adequate roof: The roof must prevent the entrance of moisture and provide sufficient minimum economic life.
  • Functional heating and cooling: Heating and cooling systems will be assessed, regardless of design, fuel or heat source. Central air is not required, but if installed, it must be operational.
  • Operational electric system: The electrical system of the home must be adequate and up to date, with no frayed or exposed wiring. The electrical system must also be able to support typical functions and appliances for the size of the home.
  • Suitable plumbing and water flow: The home must have working plumbing and enough water pressure for waste removal.

USDA loans have a different appraisal process than other loan types in the sense that the appraiser is ensuring the property meets all standards set by the USDA in addition to determining the fair market value of the property. Keep in mind that appraisals are not as in-depth as a home inspection.

More:Learn about the USDA appraisal process here.

Other USDA Eligibility Requirements

On the same level of importance as the USDA property requirements are the USDA's credit and income requirements. While the USDA does not impose a credit score minimum, the program does enact income limits, adjusted for family size, to ensure all loans help the low- to middle-income families that the program was designed for.

USDA income limits count toward all adult household members, but vary by location and household size. The base income limits are:

  • 1-4 member household: $91,900
  • 5-8 member household: $121,300

MORE:Determine the income limit in your county using our USDA income limit calculator.

While the UDSA property eligibility map shows a general idea of qualified locations, it's best to consult a USDA lender to ensure the location is in fact eligible. This is due to changes to what the USDA considers eligible as laws and populations change.

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The United States Department of Agriculture supports the USDA Rural Development loan, also known as the Single Family Housing Guaranteed loan. This mortgage loan is designed to assist low- and moderate-income households with purchasing decent, safe, and sanitary homes in approved rural areas. No money is required down, and additional costs are low and affordable. Valid properties can be new, existing, or rehabilitated as long as the buyer will inhabit the home as their primary residence. Eligible applicants for the USDA loan must meet income and geographical requirements.

Maximum income limits help ensure that the needy households intended to benefit from the program are the ones receiving assistance. Income guidelines are available for review on USDA’s website: Restrictions vary from state-to-state and even among counties and parishes. Income guidelines are set with per capita income considered, so the figures vary across the nation. Typically, within a state, higher income limits are observed around more densely populated areas. Statistically, city dwellers earn higher incomes, which is why USDA has also enforced geographical restrictions. Income limits are adjusted based on the number of people in a household and the limit increases for each additional household member. The household income is comprised of all income-earners who will be residing in the purchased home, whether or not they are borrowers on the actual mortgage.

Eligible properties must be located within USDA-defined rural areas. USDA’s website has a search option that will determine a specific address or region’s eligibility. Particular areas of the U.S. can be searched and viewed and the map indicates whether or not the subject area is geographically valid. On the interactive USDA rural eligibility map, users can zoom in and out to view various parts of the nation. Ineligible areas are highlighted in yellow. The map can zoom in enough to reveal specific addresses, but if the user is trying to establish which areas are USDA-approved, the map search can be limited to neighborhoods or cities. Although geographical restrictions may initially be discouraging, the majority of U.S. terrain is actually considered rural by USDA’s standards. Most small towns and suburbs outside large city limits are included. Also, as mentioned, USDA will guarantee new constructions in up-and-coming rural neighborhoods as well as existing homes.

USDA funds can be used toward a number of purposes:

  • Purchase an existing or new dwelling to be used as the primary residence
  • Make repairs as deemed necessary by home inspection professionals
  • Energy efficiency-related home modifications
  • Essential household appliances and equipment (i.e. flooring, ovens, refrigerators, air conditioners)
  • Customary fees for installation, connection, and assessments
  • Costs associated with preparing a site for home construction (i.e. grading, foundation, sodding)
  • Repairs or updates to accommodate a physically disabled household member
  • Taxes and other fees that are due at closing

Buyers who aren’t ready to commit to a specific property or realtor can use USDA’s website to answer most property-related questions and learn more about what the USDA funds can be used for. Also listed are approved lenders that can determine an interested applicant’s eligibility.

USDA eligibility standards are lenient in comparison to traditional mortgage loans. Aside from the income and geographic requirements, USDA approval is very generous and accommodating for modern financial and household situations. While other mortgage loans require applicants to meet a certain income, USDA sets maximum income limits. The USDA program helps lower and moderate income U.S. citizens achieve homeownership in rural areas. By providing affordable housing, communities will grow and thrive and the overall quality of life is positively impacted. Since the income restrictions are in favor of lower earners, many applicants who may have been turned down elsewhere may be approved for a USDA loan via an approved mortgage lender. A maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 41% is enforced. USDA does not set maximum purchase price amounts, but the applicants’ DTI including the proposed mortgage payment must not exceed 41% or the applicant will need to find a different property with a lower purchase price.

The USDA Rural Development loan is among the most accepting in regards to credit history. FHA requires a FICO score of 640 and some conventional programs accept nothing less than 740, but USDA will approve applicants with scores as low as 620, which is well below national average. Because of the guarantee from the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA lenders are allowed to safely loan to riskier buyers who have lower credit and income without the possibility of loss due to mortgage default. Negative credit events like foreclosures, short sales, and bankruptcies are not immediately disqualifying for USDA loans. Approved lenders are encouraged to look past individual credit events to consider the applicant’s overall credit worthiness. A current, positive credit portfolio with no recent late payments or collection accounts may qualify an applicant for a mortgage.

There are many mortgage programs on the market today that offer a variety of benefits to buyers. The reason USDA has been a forerunner in recent years is because of its unparalleled affordability. Not only is the loan 100% financing, requiring No Down Payment*, it also features low costs and fees.

Since the USDA loan is a zero-down mortgage, all loans are subject to mortgage insurance fees. All mortgage loans, regardless of program, require mortgage insurance if the down payment is less than 20%. USDA uses buyer-paid mortgage insurance premiums to continually fund the program. USDA mortgage insurance is separated into an upfront fee and an annual fee. As of October 2016, the upfront fee paid at closing is 1.00% and the annual fee is 0.35%. For example, a $200,000 home will require a $2,000 fee at closing and a $58.00 monthly fee. Instead of requiring the upfront fee at closing, USDA allows the mortgage insurance to be rolled into the total loan amount and paid out in small monthly payments. For comparison, FHA charges mortgage insurance at 1.75% upfront and .85% annually. The FHA upfront fee isn’t financed into the loan amount.

Another constant among financed mortgages is the necessity for closing costs. Closing costs are used to pay for third-party services like appraisals, credit checks, and title work. Since it’s against regulations for a mortgage provider to also supply these outside services, they must be performed by designated professionals and paid accordingly. The closing cost amount will vary among lenders and mortgage loan types. Despite being free of down payments, USDA loans still come with a set of closing costs. The total costs are due in full, but they can be gifted by a family member if the buyer doesn’t have the funds available. USDA will also allow the seller to cover up to 6% of the purchase price in closing costs. Since closing costs rarely exceed 4%, this is more than enough to allow the buyer to complete the closing with no money out-of-pocket. When the seller covers the costs, they aren’t actually paying for them, but instead the house’s purchase price is raised to cover whatever the costs equal. As long as the appraisal allows for it, this practice is very beneficial and convenient to buyers who wish to reserve as much of their cash as possible.

The USDA’s Rural Development website,, provides a number of resources for those who are interested in learning more about or applying for the USDA home loan. Users have an option to browse requirements by state and search RD properties for resale. There are a number of programs within USDA that offer housing assistance to households in need. Each state implements various assistance programs for eligible applicants made possible through respective local legislation. Since the USDA works with non-profit organizations, several grants are given each year. Online literature via can answer almost any USDA-related question anywhere from how and why it was developed to how it is still maintained.

To better understand USDA’s determinability, the Economic Research Service division compiled a study of socioeconomic factors for all counties and cities/towns within a given state. Called The Atlas, it assembles statistics for three factors: people, jobs, and county classifications. Similar to the rural eligibility map, The Atlas is an interactive map that users can use to navigate data within specific counties or regions. Each county lists the indicators for each factor within the three categories and users can choose to download additional data. These studies are part of how rural eligibility is determined.

The USDA is committed to keeping U.S. citizens informed about socioeconomic events and statistics and is determined to improve the qualify of life in rural regions of the nation. Just one of their programs, the USDA Rural Development home loan, makes it possible for countless Americans to afford to buy homes when it wouldn’t have been possible before. By assisting these qualified buyers with homeownership, the USDA is helping to grow and improve underdeveloped communities.

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If you are looking for a more rural and suburban lifestyle — where the cost of living is typically lower — a USDA home loan could save you money on your down payment and interest rate.

The ability to work remotely has created a unique opportunity to live anywhere you want. As COVID-19 restrictions are slowly lifted, more than a third of employees report continuing to work from home regardless of their workplace opening back up. 

There’s just one thing — to get a USDA home loan, you need to find an eligible property. That’s where the USDA home loan map comes in.

What Is a USDA Loan, and How Do You Apply For One?

Mortgages from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are loans that are meant to support low-income families in finding affordable housing outside of major cities. These loans are often a good option for borrowers who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a traditional mortgage. 

The unique benefit of a USDA loan is that it doesn’t require a down payment — which is often the biggest financial barrier to homeownership. The loans run for 30-year terms at fixed interest rates (slightly lower than conventional loans) and can be used to purchase owner-occupied, single-family homes and condos.

The USDA loan application process starts with determining your eligibility, which depends on your income, credit score, and other debt. If you qualify, you can work with a USDA-approved mortgage lender to secure a mortgage pre-approval and start shopping for USDA-approved homes.

Eligibility Requirements for USDA Home Loans

The terms of a USDA loan can be great, but they’re not for everyone. To make sure you will qualify for one, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • Your income needs to be within 115% of the median household income limits specified for your area
  • You must be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. non-citizen national, or qualified alien
  • You will likely need a credit score of 640 or above
  • Debt obligations should not exceed 41% of your pre-tax income
  • You must agree to personally occupy the dwelling as your primary residence

And the property itself must meet these requirements:

  • It must be located within an eligible rural area
  • It must be a single-family dwelling (which includes condos, modular, and manufactured homes)
  • There is no acreage limit, but the value of the land must not exceed 30% of the value of the home

Pro Tip

Before you get hooked on your new potential home, check out the USDA interactive map to see if it’s eligible.

What Qualifies as a “Rural” Area

Before you fall in love with any particular home, you’ll need to understand which areas in your community are eligible for the USDA program. The way the USDA defines “rural” areas depends on where you live.

“In general, these areas are defined as open country that’s not part of, associated with any urban area,” said Ernesto Arzeno, a mortgage loan originator with American Bancshares.

The rule of thumb is areas with a population with less than 10,000, Arzeno said, although that rule is not hard and fast. For some areas, depending on homeownership rates, the USDA allows populations up to 35,000, but never higher than that. And the designations may change as the USDA reviews them every few years.

The only way to know for sure is to use the USDA Home Loan Map.

How to Use the USDA Home Loan Map

The USDA’s interactive home loan map is the tool that lets you see if a property is eligible. It works in two ways: You can search directly for the address of a home you’re considering, and it will give you an answer about eligibility. Or, you can navigate around the map to see which areas generally are considered rural.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to using the map:

  1. Open the USDA Home Loan Map here.
  2. To check on a specific address, type it into the search bar at the top-left corner of the map, and hit “Go!”
  3. The map will zoom you into this address, drop a pushpin, and give you one of two answers:
    1. “This address IS located in an eligible area.”
    2. “This address is not located in an eligible area.”
  4. To remove the pushpin and keep searching, click the pushpin button at the top of the map next to the search bar. This will remove the pinned location and allow you to search again.
  5. If you’re not sure about a specific address, you can zoom out and look at an entire region. You’ll see that cities and urban areas are covered in an orange overlay — this means the area is not considered rural and not eligible for USDA loans. Any area outside of the orange zones, however, is considered rural and eligible. 
  6. There’s one other way to use the map without an address: Once you’ve navigated to an area you’re interested in, you can simply click anywhere on the map to drop a pushpin. From there, a popup will tell you whether or not this location is eligible.

You’ll find that using this map is not so different than using Google Maps or other similar tools. But here are a few things to remember when using the USDA home loan map:

  • When entering a specific address, make sure to include the ZIP code for an accurate search.
  • To start over and remove all addresses, you can simply refresh the page in your browser.
  • There’s a third message you may receive when searching for an address: That eligibility can’t be determined. In this case, you’ll need to contact a USDA office directly.
  • To print a copy of the map, click the printer icon at the top of the screen. A popup will appear, allowing you to click print, and then a PDF will generate for you to save and print.

Is a USDA Home Loan Right for You?

USDA Home Loans can be a great pathway to homeownership, especially if you’re looking to live outside of a big city. But with any loan, there are pros and cons. Here’s what to consider.


  • The loans do not require a down payment.

  • Interest rates can be lower than conventional loan products.

  • Increased opportunity for homeownership.

  • You can qualify for a loan even if you have lower income and poor or fair credit.


  • Putting no money down means you will pay interest on a higher balance.

  • You need to meet strict income and debt criteria to qualify.

  • The approved loan amount of USDA loans is usually lower than conventional loans, decreasing your buying power.

  • A monthly funding fee (similar to private mortgage insurance) is added to the loan payment. It can’t be canceled after reaching 20% equity.

It’s important to highlight the financial downsides. Skipping a down payment means you could have a large loan amount to pay interest on. Plus, a monthly funding fee will apply for the full duration of any USDA loan. With that, make sure to consider all mortgage financing options to see which will be the best fit for you. 


USDA Loan Property Eligibility Map

USDA Loan Property Eligibility Requirements

Though USDA loans are often referred to as rural housing loans, you don’t have to live in the country or purchase farmland to use them. In fact, you might be surprised at just how much of the country is actually eligible for these loans.

According to the Housing Assistance Council, a whopping 97% of U.S. land is located within USDA-eligible boundaries. Those areas claim about 109 million Americans — or around a third of the country’s entire population.*

Buyers in large cities and more densely populated suburbs aren’t eligible for these loans, but many living in surrounding towns and cities may be. An area with a population of 35,000 or less can be considered “rural” in the USDA’s eyes.

The easiest way to determine USDA property eligibility is to look up the address in the map above. Simply type the property address into the tool, press enter, and you’ll see if the home is eligible for USDA financing. If the property shows up in a shaded area of the USDA eligibility map, it is not currently eligible.

What is Considered a “Rural” Area According to the USDA?

A home must be located in a “rural” part of the country to be eligible for USDA financing. To set these rural areas, the USDA factors in a community’s population, its proximity to a major metropolitan statistical area (MSA), and overall access to mortgage credit in the area.

Rural areas must fall into one of the three following categories:

  1. It must have no more than 10,000 residents.
  2. If the area has 10,001 to 20,000 residents, it cannot be located in an MSA. There also must be a serious lack of mortgage credit for low- and moderate-income families.
  3. If the area has 20,001 to 35,000 residents, it must have once been considered rural but lost its status in the 1990, 2000, or 2010 Census. Again, there also must be a serious lack of mortgage credit in the area.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into determining a city’s (and a property’s) USDA eligibility. To see eligible areas in your region, simply search a local address on the USDA property eligibility map. Any land outside the shaded areas on the map is fair game.

Other Property Eligibility Requirements

Choosing a home in a designated rural area is only the first step to qualifying for a USDA loan. That home will also need to be your primary residence — not an investment or income-earning property.

The property also needs to:

  • Have functional heating and cooling systems
  • Offer easy access from a paved or all-weather road
  • Be structurally sound, with a foundation that will last for at least the life of the mortgage
  • Have adequate roofing
  • Have a functional and operational electrical system without any frayed or exposed wiring
  • Offer working plumbing and adequate water pressure to ensure waste removal

After you’ve applied for your loan, your USDA lender will send out an appraiser to assess the home’s value and condition and ensure the home meets all the above standards.

Why USDA Loans?

USDA eligible homes open the door to countless benefits. For one, USDA loans require no down payment, which can make purchasing a home significantly more affordable upfront.

They also have lower interest rates than many other loan programs, and their guarantee fee — the USDA’s approach to mortgage insurance — is cheaper than on other mortgages as well.

Finally, USDA loans also have lax credit standards compared to many mortgage loan options. That can make it easier to qualify for the loan in the first place.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve used the USDA loan map to determine if a property is eligible, your next step is to confirm you meet income requirements. The amount you can earn to have access to USDA loans is limited and varies by location and household size, so use this tool for more specific guidance.

After you’ve confirmed eligibility on both points, it’s time to apply for preapproval with a USDA-approved lender. You can then include the preapproval letter with your offer, which could help you stand out from other buyers.

The Bottom Line

Leveraging a USDA property eligibility map is only the first step if you want to use these valuable loans in your homebuying journey. Want more help buying a home with a USDA loan? Get in touch with Neighbors Bank today. Our USDA-approved loan officers are here to guide you.

*Source: Housing Assistance Council Rural Housing Research Report


Loan areas map usda

2021 USDA Eligibility Map

Homebuyers often ask how they can find houses eligible for USDA mortgage financing?  The new 2021 USDA Eligibility Map here will help buyers identify the address and locations that are currently eligible. Keep in mind a few things when searching for eligible properties.

  • When inputting the property address, leave out the city name and state.  Just include the street number, street name and zip code.
  • Buyers can view large areas on the map by zooming in or out.
  • The eligible locations are not flexible. The property must show eligible in order to be approved for USDA financing.  Remember with USDA financing, the location of the home is the important factor, not who is selling the home.
  • Vacant land, farms or large acreage is not eligible.

Also note, in addition to the actual property location, USDA has requirements for household income. Buyers can read about the USDA Housing Income Limits here.

Once buyers establish that their property location and household income meets the guidelines, they can move on to the application process. The application process typically takes about 20 min to complete, please call us at the number above, or just submit the Info Request Form on this page to get started.

USDA mortgages provide a great avenue for buyers to purchase a home with little to NO money down. This is especially good for first time home buyers that have limited savings. Some of the advantages include:

  • 100% Financing
  • Buyers closing costs can be paid by the home seller
  • Secure fix rate terms for no recapture or early pay off penalties.
  • Flexible credit requirements
  • Closings in as little as 3 weeks

Contact today to learn more, we are available to assist 7 days week.

Filed Under: General USDA InformationTagged With: 2020 USDA Home Map, 2021 USDA Property Look up, How to find USDA house for sale, Rural Development House Map

USDA Loan Eligibility Map Lookup

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