Government agencies such as the FHA, the USDA, and the VA can insure or guarantee loans. The FHA is a part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and insures residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. The USDA provides financing to farmers and other qualified borrowers who may have trouble getting loans.
VA loans are for veterans or members of the military and can have a lower down payment.
Loans not guaranteed or insured by these agencies are known as conventional loans. These loans adhere to Fannie Mae and FHLMC (Freddie Mac) guidelines. Fannie Mae, or Federal National Mortgage Association, is a corporation created by the federal government that buys and sells conventional mortgages. It sets the maximum loan amount and requirements for borrowers.
Usually, a conventional loan is a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. That means it has a fixed interest rate for the 30 year term of the loan. Conventional loans also typically require at least a 20 percent down payment. For example, if a house costs $200,000, the lender will provide a loan for 80 percent of that amount. So, $160,00 is financed through the lender and the borrower must pay $40,000 cash.
Conventional loans can have better interest rates than non-conventional loans and can be a great option for those with a 20 percent down payment. However, even if the borrower does not have a 20 percent down payment, it is still possible to get a mortgage. By putting less down and accepting a possibly higher interest rate, the borrower can still get financing through a non-conventional loan.
PMI is required (upfront or monthly) for loans that are over 80% LTV.