FHA vs Conventional Loan: Let’s Compare

Conventional Loan

Purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments in life. For most Americans, mortgages are the only way to afford it. FHA loans often appear as alternatives to traditional loans, especially for those who have a hard time qualifying for them.

FHA loans have the insurance of the Federal Housing Administration and have different requirements than typical loans, and might offer more loyal loan conditions.

Let’s compare these two mortgage loan types in this article discussing FHA vs conventional loan types. We’ll see what makes each of them worth taking out and when they are smart decisions.

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Key Differences Between FHA And Conventional Loan

FHA Conventional loan
Best for Users with the credit score of the lower end, those seeking cheaper property & assistance in purchasing First-time property buyers, and users with excellent and good credit score
Required credit score FHA loans are given to applicants can qualify with the credit scores as low as 500 (however, 580 and up is more preferable) Lenders give loans to applicants with at least 640 are accepted
Minimum down payment
  • 3.5% for users with the credit score 580 and up
  • 10% for users with the scores 500-579
  • 3% for first-time and 10% for second-time clients and 20% for buying a multifamily dwelling
  • If a user’s income is below 80% of the median income in the state, the payment increases to 5%
Debt-to-income ratio The DTI ratios required for FHA loans must be lower than 43% for fair credit scores and below. Most mortgages by the Federal Housing Administration need a ratio 50% and lower. Require DTI ratio up to 50%
Mortgage insurance
  • Yes
  • Paying Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MPIs) is compulsory, no matter the general mortgage amount.
  • Yes
  • Private Mortgage Insurance is paid if a user puts a less than 20% down payment.
Loan limits
  • Yes
  • $420,680 in areas with cheaper property to $970,800 in areas with more luxurious market
  • Yes
  • The limit $647,200 is set by the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) nearly across the U.S.

Let’s Consider FHA

FHA loans are often chosen because they allow lower credit scores. Such federally insured loans provide less strict terms for obtaining the finances and charge lower interest rates. With this, there comes the assistance and guidance of a mortgage agent. However, you will have to fit into definite standards for the property.

FHA loans are only given to purchase a principal residence and are issued by lenders approved by the FHA. Here belong some banks and credit unions aimed at helping low-income borrowers obtain a favorable loan and users with low credit scores.

All in all, FHA approved lenders offer such mortgages that can be used to refinance:

  • Single-family houses
  • Multifamily houses with 4 and less units
  • Condominiums
  • Hospitals
  • Mobile houses
  • New construction
  • Renovation of an already constructed home

What Is FHA?

Under the term FHA, the Federal Housing Administration agency in the U.S. is responsible for supplying mortgage loan insurance to the specific circle of FHA-approved lender companies.

FHA operates on the funds received from the so-called Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MPIs). As a part of federal support for homebuyers, it requires lower down payment minimums and helps a large part of American society to afford the property.

The FHA also carries the function of protecting the lender from losses in case a user defaults. Borrowers who qualify for FHA loans can borrow up to 96.5% of the property value and are bound to purchase mortgage insurance.

FHA Requirements

So, FHA-backed loans require:

  • The property you aim to purchase needs to be appraised by the FHA-certified appraiser
  • You need to move in or occupy this property within 60 days from the day of mortgage closure
  • You can only buy property to be the place of primary residence, i.e., not second home or investment property
  • The process must end with a follow-up inspection. The expert examining has to report about the property meeting the FHA-defined minimum property standards.

As for the user and their financial behavior, they should be ready to meet the following criteria:

1. Credit score.

With a score of 500 to 600, one can easily qualify for an FHA loan. Borrowers with a higher credit score might qualify with the DTI ratio: the percentages of monthly gross income used to pay off debts. Lower DTIs give better chances.

2. FHA loan down payment.

A down payment is the percentage of the property price that you put down in the first place. It depends on credit score and makes 3,5% for scores 580 and up and 10% for scores 500-579.

3. Income requirements.

Employment history and verifiable income are enough to get an FHA loan.

4. Loan limits.

How much one is eligible to borrow is defined by the state where the property is located. For 2023, $1,089,300 is the maximum in high-price areas to pay for one-unit homes. Lower-cost areas, where most states belong, are limited by $472,030.

5. Mortgage Insurance Premium (MPI).

This obligatory insurance is paid throughout the loan life or 11 years (if you put a 10% down payment). The first MPI equals 1.75% of the loan amount. The mortgage duration also defines an annual MPI. As a rule, it ranges from 0.45% to 1.05%.

Pros and Cons of FHA

When it comes to weighing the good and bad sides of FHA loans, it is obvious that flexible requirements and the favor given to borrowers challenged with credit histories and scores make these loans nice. They are available when other loans are not.

Still, an FHA backed loan might not be enough to cover expenses related to obtaining or constructing a home. They also require compulsory insurance (to protect the lender) and put a limit on the dwelling’s purposes.


  • Allow lower down payments.
  • Charge less interest.
  • Have loan conditions that make it easier to qualify for an average user with a lower-end credit score.


  • Mortgage Insurance Premium is a must.
  • Limit borrowers to primary residence dwellings only.
  • Loan amounts can be insufficient.
  • A 2% to 6% closing cost.

Read Also: Loans For People On Benefits: What You Need to Know

Let’s Consider Conventional Loan

Unlike government-backed mortgages of the FHA type that don’t require high scores and similar, conventional loans are given independently of the state administration. Such loans are aimed at fair and good credit score borrowers whose financial standing is decent. For home purchasing, the traditional type of loan remains an option that users frequently resort to.

This is mostly taking place due to the reasons like hardships fitting into the government given loan limits.

What Is Conventional Loan?

Conventional loans are the mortgage products available through most banks, online lenders, and some credit unions. They are not supported by federal organs and offer less loyal criteria for qualifying.

These loans turn out as best for those who seek not just a home to live in. Here your choice is free and can include a property for rent, investment, or just buying a vacation home for your family.

Conventional Loan Requirements

To figure out if a conventional loan suits your situation, preferences, and expectations, consider several of their key requirements. You will need to meet the following 97 conventional loan guidelines:

  • Credit score.

Such loans require a credit score of 680 and up to obtain favorable loan conditions. With a lower credit score, it’s possible to qualify, but 10% of the home value will be required as a down payment.

  • Debt-to-income ratio.

Below 36% is a good DTI to qualify for a conventional loan.

  • Down payment. 

It’s the amount you pay for initiating the mortgage. It ranges from 3% for borrowers with fair and less than fair credit scores, and this percentage grows if the DTI ratio is higher.

Unlike with FHA loans, here loan limits depend on the chosen mortgage category. Users choose from conforming and nonconforming loans. The first type is limited to $726,200 by FHFA (in most states), while for nonconforming loans borrowers set their own limits.

For instance, for most borrowers who aim at jumbo loans, amounts of $1 to $2 million are approved.

Pros and Cons of Conventional Loan

This loan type is generally more successful in satisfying borrowers’ needs. However, not everyone can afford an unrestricted mortgage like this to buy a dream home. This luxury is left for good and excellent score users able to meet the set of strict requirements.

With this information, let us see the upsides and downsides.


  • Loans need a little lower down payments.
  • Offer more flexible standards.
  • Mortgage insurance can be removed (once you reach a suitable level of equity).
  • Quicker to process.
  • Not limited to primary residence dwellings.


  • Require higher credit scores.
  • Need lower DTIs.
  • A 2% to 5% closing cost.

Read More: Conventional 97 Loan: What It Is & How to Get

Summing Up

To sum up, traditional loans are often deemed as the ways to get financing for a home faster and bypass the limits, e.g., in amounts, which is often a factor that holds people back from purchasing the property they truly want.

These loans are generally better for people with good credit history and scores who can easily handle monthly payments. To add, if you want to obtain a second or vacation home or just pool money into property, traditional loans with their higher loan limits are a more logical choice.

Borrowing from FHA-approved lenders turns out more effortless. You don’t need to meet many criteria to qualify for FHA loans and can get brilliant loan terms with significantly lower interest rates and low down payments for all.

To recap it all, deciding on loans must be based on your credit history and score, the purpose of home buying, and the general property price.

Sources Used in Research for the Article:

  1. Let FHA Loans Help You, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
  2. Conventional loans, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
  3. FHA Loans, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,


When is it a good idea to choose FHA to conventional loan?

If your financial situation is such that it needs financial support and credit score is categorized as below average (500 to 680), an FHA loan is more available. It is also preferred by borrowers with high debt levels (DTI ratio up to 50%). If these factors coincide and your desired dwelling isn’t super expensive, go for an FHA loan.

What are risks associated with FHA and conventional loans?

In both cases, a borrower risks going default if they have no source of stable income and monthly payments turn out to be too burdensome. Yet, conventional loans require mortgage insurance and can charge high interest.

How to choose between FHA and conventional loan?

First, consider your goals. If they are buying a residence place and you currently have no property or planning to build a house from zero, FHA is a good choice. For other cases, if you’d like higher loan limits, pick conventional loans.

What is more expensive: FHA or conventional loan?

How much you pay for loans depends on how trustworthy the borrower is in the eyes of a lender. With a high score, even a conventional mortgage can come close to the more affordable and less interest-filled FHA loan.