Best USDA Lenders

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To secure a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, you don’t have to become a farmer or live in a remote area with more land than you can handle. While USDA loans have certain property guidelines, there are many up-and-coming rural areas that meet the requirements.

USDA home loans have perks such as not requiring a down payment, no private mortgage insurance (PMI) and lower interest rates. Buyers don’t necessarily need excellent credit to secure a loan.

We selected our top picks for USDA loan lenders based on their experience with USDA loans, customer reviews and availability. Our picks may be Authorized Partners who compensate us. This does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may impact the order in which companies appear.

Our top three USDA lenders are rated better than competitors and have online applications or pre-qualification processes that make the loan process easier. These three companies are also available in almost every state. See how they measure up to each other.

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Compare our top 3 USDA lender picks


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All information accurate as of time of publication.

More info on our top 3 USDA lender picks

When shopping for a USDA lender, it can be difficult to find the mortgage lender’s specific information on USDA loans. It is best to call directly or fill out a free online quote to learn if a lender is the right fit for you.

Best for flexible requirements
Loan options
USDA Direct loans, Guaranteed loans, home improvement loans and refinancing
Minimum credit score
State availability

New American Funding is a direct mortgage lender available in all states except Hawaii. Headquartered in California, it has 170 locations across the country and has serviced over 219,000 loans. It offers a wide range of home loans, including government-backed loans like FHA, VA and USDA loans. For conventional and VA loans, it also offers a cash buyer program.

Many lenders want to see USDA applicants have a minimum credit score of 640, but New American Funding will consider buyers with a score of 580 or more. You can get a loan estimate without hurting your credit score, but this automatic quote might not include USDA options. The preapproval and loan application can also be completed online.

Note that there are several eligibility requirements the buyer and the property have to meet for approval. New American Funding helps streamline that process by working with you to identify your eligibility and to answer any questions you may have. Getting approval for a USDA loan can take 30 to 60 days.

USDA loans do not require a down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI), so you will save money on those. However, there are still fees, many of which need to be paid upfront. These include lender fees and guarantee fees, along with traditional closing costs.

  • Flexible credit score requirements
  • Online application
  • Nationwide availability with in-person locations
  • Lender and guarantee fees
  • Approval process can be longer

Many praise New American Funding for its dedicated customer service representatives. Even though someone’s customer service experience can vary based on the representative, there are several reviews from ConsumerAffairs reviewers mentioning many different helpful loan officers. One Florida reviewer said, “Tania not only took the time to make our entire loan process easy to understand — she broke it all down line by line to make perfect sense financially.”

There were a few reviewers who did complain about the underwriting process, saying that this part delayed the closing of their home. Many felt that they promptly provided the underwriter with information, but they often had to provide it again.

Best for streamlined technology
Loan options
USDA Guaranteed loans, USDA refinance
Minimum credit score
State availability

Based in North Carolina, Cardinal Financial is a licensed lender in all 50 states, but it has no in-person locations available. It matches you to a loan originator in your area and offers conventional mortgages, FHA, VA and USDA loans, as well as refinance options.

For USDA loans, Cardinal Financial offers both Guaranteed loans and USDA refinancing. It will consider buyers with a minimum credit score of 580. Loan rates are not published on its site, but rates are locked in between 30 to 90 days, depending on the type of loan.

It uses a custom-built loan origination platform, Octane, to streamline the mortgage process. With Octane, you can see your mortgage documents on demand and get updates when your loan enters the next step. It is available for Cardinal Financial customers through an internet browser, but the mobile app is still in the works.

While Cardinal Financial does not offer a price-match guarantee, it does say that it will try to beat or match any competitor’s rates if you get a lower offer. It also works hard to get loans through underwriting within 24 hours, though it is common to need to submit additional information as a protective financial measurement for both parties.

  • Will price match
  • Loan origination technology
  • No physical branches
  • Rates not published

Many customers were happy with Cardinal Financial’s customer service and the loan officers’ care in making sure their loan process went smoothly. They chose the lender because the company worked fast, and most had no issues during the process. One Arizona reviewer said: “My appraisal was ordered within the first week and completed less than three days after that. The entire process took less than a month. There were no hidden fees/costs, which is why I chose this company over any other lender.”

There are a few negative reviews on ConsumerAffairs regarding Cardinal Financial involving people having issues with their loan officer taking too long and dragging the process out.

Best for no origination fees
Loan options
USDA Guaranteed loans, USDA refinance
Minimum credit score
State availability

With over 20 years of experience, AmeriSave has helped over 628,000 borrowers buy a new home or refinance their current home. Based in Georgia, it can help homebuyers in every state except New York. It offers conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans and USDA loans.

While AmeriSave’s USDA credit score requirement is not as low as New American Funding’s, it is lower than the national average. USDA applicants should have at least a credit score of 600 before applying.

AmeriSave allows you to check if you are eligible for a USDA loan and pre-qualify for a loan online, or you can scan the QR code from the site to initiate a chat with an AmeriSave loan officer. Once you are preapproved for a USDA loan, you can lock in that rate for 90 days, giving you plenty of time to find the right home in an eligible rural area.

AmeriSave works with homebuyers completely online; there are no branches.

  • 90-day rate lock
  • Online pre-qualification
  • Lower minimum credit score requirement
  • Not available in New York
  • No in-person branches

Customers choose AmeriSave because of the thorough customer service and how competitive the rates are. While mortgage rates are up across the country, one reviewer from Virginia was happy with the rate they received. “The process was the easiest I've done. … Also, the rates are good. … It was less than what I thought it would be.”

Some reviewers had issues with the loan processor and felt that they gave conflicting information and slowed down the process. Another reviewer felt like it was not communicated clearly that in order to lock in the lowest rate, they had to put more money down.

Compare Top USDA Loan Reviews

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What is a USDA loan?

A USDA loan is a type of mortgage offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It provides low-interest home loans to individuals and families who are looking to purchase in an eligible rural area. The most notable benefit of these loans is that they come with no down payment requirement and no PMI, resulting in lower monthly payments compared with other loan types.

There are two types of USDA loans: Guaranteed and Direct. The more common loan is the USDA Guaranteed loan, which is funded through a private lender and available to low- to middle-income buyers. USDA Direct loans are made directly through the federal government and are harder to receive due to the strict eligibility requirements and rules. It is important to be aware that your original USDA lender might sell or transfer your loan to another company at some point, but your loan will still be classified as a USDA loan if this happens.

How to apply for a USDA loan

The first question you should ask any lender is how many USDA loans are processed and in what general areas — since loan specifics, like rates and terms, aren’t going to vary too much between lenders.

“We are all selling in the secondary market. Because of that all of our rates are going to be roughly the same,” said A.W. Pickel III, former CEO of Waterstone Mortgage in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. “Terms will also be the same across lenders, since USDA Guaranteed loans are only available in 15- or 30-year terms, and USDA Direct loan terms are 33 or 38 years.”

Minimum eligibility requirements to qualify for a USDA loan are set by the government, so you won’t see a big difference in minimum credit scores or maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratios.

Before you apply for a USDA loan, confirm that you meet the strict USDA eligibility requirements relating to your income, credit, repayment history and location. Applicants will be disqualified if they have outstanding federal judgments or significant delinquencies.
Check the accuracy of your credit reports before you apply for any mortgage, including the USDA loan program. Lenders will evaluate the last three years of credit history for all note signers (applicant and co-signer if present) to determine your ability to repay the loan.

There isn’t a hard minimum score for securing a USDA loan, but if your credit score is higher than 640 the process will be much easier. A lower credit score is a red flag to lenders that you don’t have a consistent history of making on-time payments.

USDA mortgages are offered by national, regional and local lenders. The USDA does not endorse any particular lenders but does maintain a partial list of USDA-approved lenders.

Your lender will ask you about your assets, monthly debt obligations, gross monthly income and desired loan amount. A lender will also get your permission to run a hard credit inquiry. Every application for a USDA loan must be submitted through an approved lender.

To get preapproved for a USDA loan, you’ll need to provide your lender with a number of important documents: a government-issued ID (driver’s license or passport), W-2 forms or tax returns for the last two years, recent pay stubs, bank statements, and a Social Security verification letter. The lender will then verify your information and evaluate your purchasing power and home loan affordability.

Getting preapproved for a USDA loan doesn’t necessarily guarantee your home loan. There will be conditions that you’ll have to meet before an underwriter will approve your USDA loan.

Once you have a preapproval letter from your lender, you can start house hunting. The only way to confirm that a USDA-eligible home you're interested in is in a qualified rural area is to check the USDA property eligibility website.

For a home to qualify for the USDA Direct loan program, it must be less than 2,000 square feet and cannot have an in-ground swimming pool, be designed for commercial activities or be worth more than the area’s loan limit.

Now that you’ve found your dream house, your lender and real estate agent will help you extend an official offer. Make sure that your real estate agent is aware that you’ll be financing the house with a USDA loan, as that will impact how they draw up your offer.
After your offer is accepted, a professional home appraisal will be required to ensure that the house is up to USDA standards. If the home doesn’t adhere to USDA loan specifications, the seller will have to resolve any issues before the closing date. It is the lender’s responsibility to select a qualified appraiser to complete an inspection.
Before you close on the new house, a mortgage underwriter has to officially approve your loan application. A mortgage underwriter will review all of your information to check for major changes since your application was submitted. Some red flags to an underwriter processing a USDA mortgage loan include values inconsistent with the appraisal report, repayment income listed as greater than annual income, or data that’s incomplete for insurance or taxes.
Get ready to sign a lot of paperwork and then move into your new house. If all goes according to plan, the USDA and your lender will sign off on your file, and you’ll be cleared to close. Your agent might negotiate the closing costs to be paid for by the seller. If not, the USDA allows for gift funds from friends and family to cover the costs. You’ll need an official letter stating that the funds are from a family member or friend.

USDA Direct loans vs. USDA Guaranteed loans

USDA Direct Loans and USDA Guaranteed Loans are two special loan programs that are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While both types of loans offer similar benefits, there are some differences.

USDA Direct loans

For a USDA Direct loan, the borrower receives the money directly from the government. This type of loan is available to low-income borrowers who may not qualify for traditional financing or have been unable to secure a loan from other sources. The government requires borrowers to earn at least 50% to 80% of the median income in their area.

Homes secured by USDA Direct loans must not be larger than 2,000 square feet. The property cannot have an in-ground swimming pool and cannot be used for income-generating purposes. The interest rate offered by the government is low, and loan terms can range between 33 and 38 years.

USDA Guaranteed loans

USDA Guaranteed loans are funded by private lenders approved by the government. Borrowers must have low to moderate income. Lenders can approve buyers with incomes up to 115% of the area median. Certain areas of the country have higher income limits. Since these loans are through private lenders, the lender sets its own credit score requirements.

USDA Guaranteed loans have a fixed, low interest rate for a term of 30 years.

USDA home improvement loans

These loans are available to eligible borrowers who need assistance with things like roof repairs, siding replacement or window upgrades. Loans of up to $40,000 and grants of up to $10,000 are available to low-income homeowners who are in USDA-eligible rural areas.


What is the difference between an FHA and USDA mortgage?

The main difference between the two types of mortgages is in their eligibility requirements, loan limits and down payment amounts. An FHA mortgage is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and allows buyers to put as little as 3.5% down when purchasing a house; mortgage insurance is required. This type of loan is available to all qualified borrowers regardless of their income level, as long as they can prove they have a steady source of income.

USDA mortgages offer 100% financing for homes in certain eligible rural areas and are designed for people with low or moderate incomes living outside city limits. Borrowers pay an upfront guarantee fee and an annual fee.

Can I be denied for a USDA mortgage?

For both the USDA Guaranteed and Direct loans, if your property is not in a USDA-approved rural area, you will not be approved. Additionally, with a USDA Guaranteed loan, if your income is more than 115% of the average median income for your area or if you cannot prove a steady source of income, your application can be denied.

Direct loan applicants must have incomes between 50% and 80% of the average median income to qualify.

How much will the USDA approve me for?

For a USDA Direct loan, it depends on your state and county. Many rural areas across the country have a maximum loan limit of $336,500, but in some states, such as California, select areas have a maximum loan amount of $776,600 because of the high property prices.

For a Guaranteed loan, there is no minimum or maximum loan limit. Both USDA loan types will fund up to 100% of the purchase price.

Can you use a USDA loan to buy land?

You can buy land with a USDA loan. However, you must also build a house on it.

Bottom line

If you meet USDA eligibility requirements, the right lender can help you secure your dream home with all the perks that come with a USDA loan. Remember: Not all lenders offer this type of loan, so it is best to make sure you find a lender that’s experienced in USDA loans.

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Active Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) Lenders.” Accessed Aug. 13, 2021.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Defining the 'Rural' in Rural America.” Accessed Aug. 13, 2021.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Eligibility.” Accessed Aug. 13, 2021.
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Rural Development Single Family Housing - Area Loan Limits.” Accessed Jan. 24, 2023.
  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans.” Accessed Jan. 24, 2023.
  6. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Comparison of Direct and Guaranteed USDA Rural Housing Loan Programs.” Accessed Jan. 24, 2023.
  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants.” Accessed Jan. 24, 2023.

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