If you’re a first-time homebuyer, navigating the world of mortgage loans can be overwhelming. The good news is that there are several loan options tailored to meet your needs.

In this guide, i’ll break down the top loans you should consider as a first-time homebuyer, providing you with a clear understanding of their pros and cons. So let’s get started. My first pick is the FHA loan.

FHA Loan

This government-backed loan allows you to qualify for a mortgage at a lower credit score and with less money as a down payment. It sounds like a win for most first time home buyers. So some of the big pros to using the FHA loan are:


  • Lower Down Payment: With an FHA loan, you only need a 3.5% down payment to qualify for your home purchase.  Now keep in mind that doesn’t include closing costs, which could be another 3-5% of your purchase.

  • Easier Qualification: In addition to the lower down payment, the FHA loan is also a lot easier to qualify for. FHA loans have lower credit score requirements and are more lenient with debt-to-income ratios*, making it accessible for many first-time buyers.

*If you are wondering what is a debt-to-income ratio referred to and how you would calculate yours, do not worry, I got you covered. Just click the link for the video below and you will get all your answers. 

With any loan type, there’s always going to be some cons as well. This is because you are taking out a loan, you’re borrowing money, it’s not going to be free, and, let’s be frank, it’s just how it is. So with the FHA loan, some of the cons are:


  • Mortgage Insurance: FHA loans come with mortgage insurance for the entire duration of the loan, which increases your monthly payment.

    It’s important to note that this insurance, in this context, is added to your monthly payments by the lender to safeguard your payments in case of default; it is not insurance for the physical house itself.

    In exchange for taking on some risks and allowing you to secure a mortgage with just a 3.5% down payment, the lender charges you for this insurance.

    This arrangement is a win-win: you can obtain a mortgage with minimal upfront costs, while the lender is protected in case of payment difficulties.

    If you opt for an FHA loan, you will have mortgage insurance. This is the type of loan I used for my first home purchase, and I am still paying for the mortgage insurance on that loan today.

  • Lower Borrowing Limits: These loans may have lower borrowing limits, which can limit your options in high-cost areas. As a result, you may not be able to secure as large of a total loan amount if you are in an area with a high cost of living.

  • Strict Property Requirements: FHA loans require homes to meet specific livability standards, which could affect your choice of properties. 

    For instance, the property must be habitable, with sheetrock covering the walls. The kitchen should be equipped with essential appliances, such as a range.

    There should be no paint chipping from the walls, and the property must not have any unfinished areas. Furthermore, it is essential that the residence is equipped with central heating and air conditioning.
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USDA Rural Development Loan

My second recommendation is the USDA Rural Development Loan, which I personally favor. While the USDA loan may not be as widely recognized, it can be an exceptionally valuable choice for first-time homebuyers.

This loan is accessible to borrowers in rural areas, and in some cases, certain areas just beyond city limits may also qualify. What makes it particularly appealing is that it offers 100% financing.

The USDA loan can be an excellent choice for those purchasing in rural areas. Especially for those who may find it challenging to gather funds for a down payment and cover closing costs.

This loan option essentially provides built-in down payment assistance, as it offers 100% financing, making it a practical solution for those with limited upfront financial resources. Here I will list the pros first:


  • No Down Payment: USDA loans offer 100% financing, eliminating the need for a down payment. 
    Even if you have money saved up, the benefit of 100% financing with the USDA loan is that you can utilize those funds for other purposes.

    For instance, you might choose to invest that money in home improvements like repainting the house.

  • Lower Interest Rates: Some USDA loan programs may provide lower interest rates compared to FHA or conventional loans.

  • No Mortgage Insurance: Unlike FHA loans, USDA loans do not require mortgage insurance.


There are no fixed credit score requirements for the USDA Rural Development Loan. However, if you choose the guaranteed route and secure the USDA loan through a local lender, they may establish specific credit score criteria.

This is because the loan is facilitated by the lender, even though it is guaranteed by USDA. As a result, the lender has the authority to set their own credit score requirements for loan approval.

Other than that, here are a few more considerations:

  • Strict Income Limits: USDA loans consider the entire household income for qualification, which may limit eligibility in higher-income households. 

    A significant distinction between USDA loans and FHA or conventional loans lies in how they evaluate household income for qualification. With USDA loans, the entire income of the household is taken into account.

    For example, if you’re in an area where the maximum allowable income for a four-person household is $103,000, USDA will consider the combined income of everyone residing in the house.

    This differs from most other loans, where typically only the income of the applicants on the loan application is considered.

    USDA, however, includes the income of all household members, regardless of whether their names are on the application, as long as they will be living in the house.

  • Location Restrictions: You must purchase a home in rural or certain eligible areas to qualify for a USDA loan.

  • Funding Availability: The direct USDA loan route might have funding availability issues and longer processing times.
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Conventional Loan

Another strong option for first-time homebuyers is a conventional loan, which I consider the third-best choice. Let’s start with pros:


  • Higher Loan Limits: Conventional loans offer higher borrowing limits, providing more flexibility in selecting a property.

  • No Mortgage Insurance (with 20% down): If you can make a 20% down payment, you won’t need mortgage insurance, reducing your monthly expenses.

    This option holds true only if you can provide a minimum 20% down payment. If you’re a first-time homebuyer with strong financial acumen, responsible spending habits, or investments like stocks that you can liquidate for a down payment, opting for a conventional loan is financially advantageous.

    By making a 20% down payment, you can enjoy a lower monthly payment because conventional loans do not require mortgage insurance.

  • Flexible Terms: Conventional loans offer fixed and adjustable-rate options with various term durations. 
    With a conventional loan, you have the flexibility to choose a fixed interest rate for a period ranging from 15 to 30 years. This provides a stable and predictable monthly budget.

    Alternatively, you can opt for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) if you prefer variable interest rates. Conventional loans also offer various term durations to suit your specific needs.


Now there are some cons too:

  • Higher Down Payment: Conventional loans typically require a higher down payment compared to FHA loans.

  • Stricter Credit and Income Requirements: Qualifying for a conventional loan may be more challenging for those with lower credit scores or incomes. 

    If you identify as a budget-conscious individual, someone skilled at saving money, and boast a credit score ranging from good to excellent, a conventional loan is likely to offer you the most advantages.

    Conventional loans are designed to benefit financially responsible individuals who are financially secure and savvy.

  • PMI for <20% Down: If your down payment is less than 20%, you’ll need to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until you reach 20% equity. 

    If you choose the conventional loan option, you should be aware that you can put down less than 20%, such as 3%, 5%, or 10%. However, when your down payment is less than 20%, you will have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

    The key distinction is that once you reach 20% equity or have an 80% loan-to-value ratio in your home, you can request the removal of PMI from your loan, resulting in a lower monthly payment.

    This differs from FHA loans, where PMI remains for the entire loan term.

First Time Home Buyer Loans: In Conclusion

When considering any of the loan options I mentioned, or really any loan available, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons based on your unique situation and financial goals.

Therefore, it’s highly advisable to consult with a lender to determine the best loan option for your specific needs. If you’re ready to start the process of buying a home and need a great agent to work with, contact me to get started.

By educating yourself and watching videos like this, you’re already ahead of the game, and I can assure you that many first-time homebuyers, around 75 to 80 percent, find value in this educational approach.

Remember that becoming a homeowner is a significant milestone, and understanding your loan options is a vital step toward achieving your dream.

If you have any further questions or need more guidance on home loans, feel free to reach out for assistance.

So, go ahead and embark on your exciting journey to homeownership with confidence!

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