Although interest rates are on the rise, it's still a great time to purchase a home. Speak with one of our expert loan officers today!
USDA Loan Requirements in NC and Frequently Asked Questions

USDA Loan Requirements in NC and Frequently Asked Questions

Dreaming of a home in an area with warm weather, a thriving job market and awe-inspiring landscapes? Look no further – North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places to call home, and with the USDA home loan program, you could be one step closer to affordably living in the Tar Heel State.

USDA loans are supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture via the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program. With 100 percent financing, no down payment required and low mortgage insurance rates, USDA loans have become an increasingly popular option for home buyers.

At Blue Water, we serve to ensure you have the information you need to choose the best mortgage option for you. Read on to learn more about USDA loans requirements in North Carolina.

Overview of USDA Loans

There are three types of USDA loans available to NC residents:

  • The Single-Family Direct Loan assists low- and very-low-income applicants and is fully funded, serviced and insured by the USDA. The USDA direct loan has 33-year and 38-year repayment options depending on your income level.
  • The Single-Family Guaranteed Loan is intended to assist moderate-income borrowers; it is funded and serviced by private lenders but is partially insured against default by the USDA. The USDA guaranteed loan has both 15-year and 30-year fixed-rate options.
  • The Single-Family Housing Repair Loan & Grant enables very-low-income borrowers to improve or modernize their homes or remove health and safety hazards; it is funded entirely by the USDA.

USDA loans are more affordable than other loan types. Unlike conventional and FHA loans, USDA loans offer 100 percent financing with no down payment required. USDA borrowers pay very low mortgage insurance rate (MI) of .4%, which is less than half the cost of an FHA loan’s monthly mortgage insurance fee. USDA loans are very straightforward, with no prepayment penalties or hidden fees.

Although USDA loans are stricter than most other loan types due to their eligibility requirements, they are no more difficult to meet than for any other type of loan. The most important requirements are income and property eligibility.

As luck would have it, there are a number of rural areas in North Carolina that may qualify for USDA loan property eligibility. Areas that are not eligible are typically located around the major cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh. To see which areas are eligible for a USDA loan in NC, you can refer to the USDA’s mapping tool.

The USDA income limit is based on the sum of income of all household members over the age of 18, regardless of whether their name is on the loan. To qualify, the gross household income must be less than 115% of the county’s median income.

Basic Requirements for a USDA Loan in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are a few basic requirements you must meet in order to be eligible for a USDA loan.

  • You must have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.
  • You must have a dependable income for a minimum of 24 months.
  • You must be able to make a monthly payment — which includes principal, interest, insurance and taxes — that is 29 percent or less of your monthly income.
  • Your total monthly debt payments cannot exceed 41 percent of your income.
  • You must have an acceptable credit history, with no accounts converted to collections within the past 12 months

FAQ's ebook CTA

Income Limits for USDA loans in North Carolina

The USDA home loan program has strict income eligibility restrictions, with income limits varying from state to state from county to county. Income caps for a guaranteed loan in the state of North Carolina are shown in the chart below.

1-4 Person Household 5-8 Person Household
Alleghany County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Anson County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Ashe County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Asheville, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Avery County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Beaufort County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Bertie County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Bladen County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Brunswick County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Burlington, NC MSA $306,000 $391,000
Camden County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Carteret County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Caswell County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC HUD Metro FMR Area $323,000 $408,000
Cherokee County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Chowan County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Clay County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Cleveland County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Columbus County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Craven County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Dare County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Davidson County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Duplin County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $340,000 $431,000
Fayetteville, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Gates County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Goldsboro, NC MSA $306,000 $391,000
Graham County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Granville County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Greene County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Greensboro-High Point, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Greenville, NC MSA $306,000 $391,000
Halifax County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Harnett County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Haywood County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Hertford County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC MSA $306,000 $391,000
Hoke County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Hyde County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Iredell County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Jackson County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Jacksonville, NC MSA $306,000 $391,000
Jones County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Lee County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Lenoir County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Lincoln County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Macon County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Martin County, NC $306,000 $391,000
McDowell County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Mitchell County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Montgomery County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Moore County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Northampton County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Pamlico County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Pasquotank County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Pender County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Perquimans County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Person County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Polk County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Raleigh, NC MSA $374,000 $483,000
Richmond County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Robeson County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Rockingham County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Rocky Mount, NC MSA $306,000 $391,000
Rowan County, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Rutherford County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Sampson County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Scotland County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Stanly County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Surry County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Swain County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Transylvania County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Tyrrell County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Vance County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC HUD Metro FMR Are $323,000 $417,000
Warren County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Washington County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Watauga County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Wilkes County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Wilmington, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Wilson County, NC $306,000 $391,000
Winston-Salem, NC HUD Metro FMR Area $306,000 $391,000
Yancey County, NC $306,000 $391,000

FAQs about USDA Loans

What are some of the benefits of applying for a USDA loan?

The most notable benefits are 100% financing, fixed affordable interest rates, low monthly mortgage insurance and flexible credit guidelines.

I don’t live in a rural area – can I still qualify for a USDA loan?

Common belief is that USDA loans are reserved strictly for farms or homes in rural areas – not always! Many homes in suburbs outside small towns (and even some major cities) also qualify.

Do I need to be a first-time home buyer to use a USDA loan?

No, so long as you meet all other USDA qualifications and only own one home that meets the USDA’s definition of “adequate property” at a time.

How does the USDA define “adequate property”?

If you already own a home and intend to retain that property, you are still eligible for a guaranteed loan to purchase another home if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your current dwelling isn’t financed by a USDA direct loan, guaranteed loan or active grant.
  • You are financially qualified to own more than one house.
  • You intend to establish the home financed with the guaranteed loan as your primary residence throughout the term of the loan.
  • Your current home no longer adequately meets your needs (especially in the case of overcrowding).
  • The disability or limited mobility of a permanent resident of your household cannot be accommodated without substantial retrofitting of the current property.
  • You have relocated with a new employer or have been transferred by your current employer to an area outside reasonable commuting distance.

Is there an occupancy requirement for a USDA loan?

Yes. To qualify for a USDA home loan, you must establish the property as your full-time, permanent residence.

What does the USDA loan application process look like?

  1. Find a mortgage broker who offers USDA loans in NC and decide which lender is right for you.
  2. Get pre-qualified. During this step, the lender will determine whether you qualify for the program and estimate how much you are able to afford based on your credit report, DTI ratio, IRS W-2 forms and tax returns, pay stubs from the past two months and an employment verification letter.
  3. Work with a real estate agent to find a USDA-approved home and make an offer.
  4. Fill out and submit a Uniform Residential Loan Application form (Form RD 410-4).
  5. Get a property appraisal from a USDA-approved appraiser. Your mortgage broker will order an appraisal on your behalf.
  6. Receive underwriter approval. The underwriter reviews your credit score, credit history, employment history, income stability and DTI to determine how likely you are to repay your debt.
  7. Carefully review and sign all loan documentation and pay closing costs.

At Blue Water we recognize that every borrower is unique, so your USDA application process might look a little different. Reach out today – we look forward to listening and learning about your needs as you go through this journey.

What is a mortgage broker and how can they help me apply for a USDA loan in NC?

A mortgage broker acts as an intermediary between the borrower and the lender. A good broker will review your finances to determine which lender best fits your individual situation and will represent you throughout the loan application process to ensure you receive favorable terms.

Are co-borrowers allowed on a USDA loan?

Yes. There can be up to four co-borrowers on a single USDA loan transaction.

How much do I have to put down on a USDA loan?

USDA loan terms include 100% financing, which means you pay zero money down. However, you will be responsible for closing costs unless the seller agrees to pay a percentage or all of the closing costs.

Are there any upfront costs with a USDA loan?

If you intend to apply for a USDA guaranteed loan, you’ll have to pay an upfront guarantee fee and a set annual fee.

The guarantee fee is charged by mortgage-backed securities providers, such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and is typically added to your initial loan amount. The annual fee is paid as part of your monthly mortgage payment and varies from year to year based on the average amount of outstanding principal for the loan.

As of October 1, 2016, both fees were drastically reduced, saving qualified borrowers up to thousands of dollars.

Will I be able to refinance a USDA loan?

Yes. The three types of USDA loan refinancing are USDA Streamline Refinance, USDA Streamline-Assist Refinance and Non-Streamline Refinance.

Streamline refinance enables homeowners currently on their USDA loan for at least 12 months to refinance without a new appraisal.

Streamline-assist refinance is most popular of USDA refinancing options and does not require a new appraisal, credit checks or DTI ratio calculations.

The non-streamline refinance option is similar to the streamline option; however, borrowers are required to get a new appraisal.

We can help you get pre-qualified for a USDA loan. Contact us with any questions or to get started.

Important Things to Know About USDA Loans

USDA Credit Requirements

There’s no minimum credit requirement for the USDA loan, however, borrowers with a credit score of 640 or higher are eligible for streamline processing. USDA loans are more forgiving of poor credit than most other loan products on the market. Most USDA-approved lenders require a minimum FICO score of 620 and a standard debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 29%/41%.

Borrowers with a credit score lower than 640 are still eligible to receive a USDA loan, though they will be subject to the standard underwriting process. The lender will assess the length of your credit history, your repayment patterns, your credit utilization and your credit score to determine your credit worthiness. If you have a nontraditional or no credit history, lenders will evaluate your eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

No Set Loan Limits

Since USDA loans are intended for lower-income areas with lower property values, the USDA does not set loan limits. Rather, it evaluates borrowers on an individual basis to determine their maximum loan amount. Maximum loan amounts are based on factors such as your DTI ratio, monthly income, assets, credit score or mortgage payment history and the value of the property.

Ways to Use a USDA Loan:

  • New or existing residential property to be used as a permanent residence
  • A site with a new or existing dwelling
  • Refinancing
  • Special design features or permanently installed equipment to accommodate disabilities
  • Reasonable and customary connection fees, assessments or the pro rata installment costs for utilities
  • A pro rata share of real estate taxes
  • Essential household equipment (e.g. carpeting, ovens, refrigerators, washers, dryers, etc.)
  • Energy efficiency installations (e.g. insulation, solar panels, double-paned glass, etc.)
  • Installing fixed broadband service
  • Site preparation costs


Learn More About USDA Loans

If you have any additional questions about USDA loans in North Carolina or want to find out if you qualify, talk to one of our experienced mortgage brokers today. Our team has 150 years of combined experience helping clients find the best mortgage solution for their unique needs.

Roger Odoardi

Roger is an owner and licensed Loan Officer at Blue Water Mortgage. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and has been a leader in the mortgage industry for over 20 years. Roger has personally originated over 2500 residential loans and is considered to be in the top 1% of NH Loan Officers by leading national lender United Wholesale Mortgage.