Understanding the USDA Loan Income Cap: A Key Factor in Financing Your Dream Home

April 12, 2024

Understanding the Income Limits for a USDA Loan

When it comes to buying a home, financing options play a crucial role in making the dream of homeownership a reality. For individuals and families with low to moderate incomes, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a unique loan program known as the USDA Loan. This program is designed to promote rural development by providing affordable home financing options to eligible borrowers.

What is a USDA Loan?

A USDA Loan, also known as a USDA Rural Development Loan, is a mortgage loan program backed by the USDA. It is designed to help low- and moderate-income individuals or families purchase homes in eligible rural areas. The USDA loan program offers several advantages, such as low interest rates, flexible credit requirements, and the option of no down payment.

A critical factor in determining eligibility for a USDA loan is the borrower’s income. The USDA has set income limits to ensure that the program is targeted to those who truly need assistance. Let’s take a closer look at the income limits for a USDA loan.

Income Limits for USDA Loans

The income limit for USDA loans is an important criterion that borrowers must meet to qualify for the program. These income limits are based on the area median income adjusted for family size. The USDA uses two types of income limits: the “guaranteed” loan income limits and the “direct” loan income limits.

The guaranteed loan income limits are set by county and vary depending on the number of people in the household. These limits are generally higher than the direct loan income limits and are geared toward borrowers who have reliable income but may not necessarily qualify for conventional mortgage loans. It’s worth noting that the guaranteed loan income limits are subject to change annually based on the USDA’s review of median household income data.

Direct loan income limits, on the other hand, are generally lower and are intended for borrowers with very low to low incomes. These limits are set at 80% of the area median income (AMI) and may vary based on location and family size. The Direct Loan program is specifically designed to assist borrowers with the greatest need for affordable housing options.

Determining Eligibility and Calculating Income

Accurately calculating your income is essential to determining your eligibility for a USDA loan. When determining income for USDA loan qualification purposes, several factors are taken into consideration. These factors include the borrower’s gross income, adjusted income, and the number of people in the household.

Gross income refers to total income before any deductions or adjustments. It includes wages, salaries, bonuses, overtime pay, and all other sources of income. Adjusted income, on the other hand, takes into account deductions for dependents, child care, and certain other allowable expenses. Adjusted income is the figure used to determine if the borrower meets the income limit for a USDA loan.

To accurately calculate your adjusted income, it is advisable to consult with a USDA-approved lender who can guide you through the process and help you determine if you meet the income requirements for a USDA loan.

Benefits of USDA Loans

USDA loans offer many benefits to eligible borrowers. Some of the most important benefits include
1. No Down Payment: One of the most significant benefits of a USDA loan is that it allows borrowers to finance 100% of the purchase price of the home, eliminating the need for a down payment. This feature makes homeownership more accessible to individuals or families who may not have substantial savings for a down payment.

2. Competitive interest rates: USDA loans often offer very competitive interest rates compared to other loan programs. This can result in lower monthly mortgage payments and long-term savings over the life of the loan.

3. Flexible credit requirements: While credit is an important factor in loan approval, USDA loans are known for their more lenient credit requirements compared to conventional loans. This means that borrowers with less-than-perfect credit scores can still qualify for a USDA loan.

4. Mortgage Insurance: USDA loans come with a guarantee fee and an annual fee that act as mortgage insurance. However, these fees are generally lower than the private mortgage insurance (PMI) required for other loan programs.
In summary, USDA loans provide an excellent opportunity for individuals and families with low to moderate incomes to achieve their homeownership goals. Understanding the income limits for a USDA loan is critical to determining eligibility for this program. By meeting the income requirements and considering the other benefits offered, borrowers can take advantage of this affordable financing option and make their dream of owning a home in a rural area a reality.


What is the income cap for a USDA loan?

The income cap for a USDA loan varies depending on the location and the number of people in the household. Generally, the income limit is set at 115% of the median household income for the area. However, there are exceptions and adjustments made for households with more than eight members or for areas with higher costs of living.

How is the income limit determined for a USDA loan?

The income limit for a USDA loan is determined by considering the median household income for the specific area where the property is located. The limit is set at 115% of the median income, taking into account the number of people in the household. This helps ensure that the USDA loan program targets low to moderate-income families.

Are there different income limits for different types of USDA loans?

Yes, there are different income limits for different types of USDA loans. The income limits may vary based on factors such as the location of the property and the specific USDA loan program. For example, the income limits for USDA Direct Loans and USDA Guaranteed Loans may differ.

What happens if my income exceeds the USDA loan income limit?

If your income exceeds the USDA loan income limit, you may not be eligible for a USDA loan. The program is designed to assist low to moderate-income families, so exceeding the income limit could disqualify you from obtaining a USDA loan. However, it’s recommended to check with a USDA-approved lender to explore all available options and determine your eligibility.

Can the income limit for a USDA loan be waived?

The income limit for a USDA loan cannot be waived. It is a requirement set by the USDA to ensure that the program benefits those in need of assistance. The income limit serves as a means to target resources to low to moderate-income households and promote affordable homeownership in rural areas.