What Is a USDA Loan? Am I Eligible for One?

USDA loans are zero-down-payment mortgages that can open paths to homeownership for rural and suburban home buyers.
Updated
Profile photo of Taylor Getler
Written by Taylor Getler
Writer
Profile photo of Michelle Blackford
Reviewed by Michelle Blackford
Profile photo of Alice Holbrook
Edited by Alice Holbrook
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
2019-home-buyer-report

Some or all of the mortgage lenders featured on our site are advertising partners of NerdWallet, but this does not influence our evaluations, lender star ratings or the order in which lenders are listed on the page. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners.

A USDA home loan is a zero-down-payment mortgage for home buyers in eligible towns and rural areas. USDA loans are guaranteed by the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most USDA loans are issued by partner lenders, though the department can grant them directly to qualified borrowers with incomes below a certain limit.

In addition to having no down payment requirements, USDA home loans often also have lower rates than conventional mortgages because the government is taking on the risks associated with lending. This is true even when the USDA issues the loans. For example, on May 1, 2024, the government agency set the interest rate for mortgages issued directly by the USDA at 4.625%. By comparison, the average interest rate for a conventional 30-year mortgage was about 7.36% that day.

And USDA loans don’t require borrowers to pay for traditional private mortgage insurance, or PMI. 

USDA loans can be a great tool to unlock homeownership for qualified borrowers. However, buyers have to meet certain requirements, including purchasing property within specific areas outlined by the agency. 

Mortgage loans from our partners

NBKC - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on NBKC

NBKC

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
NBKC - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
0%

Check Rate

on NBKC

Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
580

Min. down payment 
3.5%

Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Better - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Better

Better

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Better - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Better

Tomo - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Tomo

Tomo

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Tomo - PURCHASE logo

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
580

Min. down payment 

3%

Check Rate

on Tomo

Guaranteed Rate - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Guaranteed Rate - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Guaranteed Rate

Mortgage loans from our partners

NBKC - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on NBKC

NBKC

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
NBKC - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
0%

Check Rate

on NBKC

Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
580

Min. down payment 
3.5%

Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Better - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Better

Better

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Better - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Better