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A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Conventional Loans

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Conventional Loans

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Conventional Loans

When it comes to financing a home purchase, there are several options available to prospective buyers. One popular choice is a conventional loan. Conventional loans are traditional mortgage loans offered by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the details of conventional loans, exploring their features, requirements, and benefits.

What Are Conventional Loans?

Conventional loans are mortgage loans that are not insured or guaranteed by a government entity, such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Instead, conventional loans are backed by private lenders and investors. This means that if a borrower defaults on a conventional loan, the lender bears the risk.

Conventional loans can be used for various purposes, including purchasing a primary residence, a second home, or an investment property. They offer flexibility and come in different terms and interest rates, allowing borrowers to choose the option that best suits their needs.

Types of Conventional Loans

There are two primary types of conventional loans: conforming and non-conforming.

Conforming Conventional Loans: These loans adhere to the guidelines set by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The guidelines specify loan limits, credit requirements, and other criteria. In most parts of the United States, the conforming loan limit for a single-family home is set annually by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). These loans are typically considered less risky by lenders and are easier to sell in the secondary market.

Non-Conforming Conventional Loans: Also known as jumbo loans, non-conforming conventional loans exceed the loan limits set by the GSEs. Jumbo loans are often used to finance luxury homes or properties in high-cost areas. Due to their higher loan amounts, non-conforming loans may have stricter credit requirements and higher interest rates.

Features and Requirements

Conventional loans have specific features and requirements that borrowers need to understand:

Down Payment: Conventional loans typically require a down payment, with the minimum amount varying based on factors such as the borrower’s creditworthiness and the loan program. The down payment can range from 3% to 20% or more of the purchase price. However, a down payment of less than 20% may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) to protect the lender in case of default.

Credit Score: Lenders consider the borrower’s credit score when evaluating their eligibility for a conventional loan. While specific credit score requirements can vary among lenders, a higher credit score generally improves the chances of securing a loan and obtaining favorable terms. Typically, a credit score of 620 or higher is preferred for conventional loans.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): Lenders assess the borrower’s ability to repay the loan by calculating their DTI ratio. The DTI ratio represents the percentage of the borrower’s monthly income that goes toward debt payments. Conventional loans usually require a DTI ratio below 43%. However, borrowers with strong financial profiles may qualify for higher ratios.

Appraisal: As with any mortgage loan, a conventional loan requires an appraisal of the property being financed. The appraisal ensures that the property’s value is sufficient to support the loan amount. The cost of the appraisal is typically paid by the borrower.

Benefits of Conventional Loans

Opting for a conventional loan offers several advantages:

Lower Costs: Compared to government-backed loans, conventional loans often have lower upfront costs and monthly payments, especially if the borrower has a substantial down payment and a strong credit history. Conventional loans also tend to have fewer fees associated with them.

No Mortgage Insurance Premiums: Once the borrower’s equity in the home reaches 20% or more, they may be eligible to cancel their private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments. This can result in significant savings over the life of the loan.

Flexibility: Conventional loans offer a wide range of options in terms of loan terms, interest rates, and repayment plans. Borrowers can choose fixed-rate mortgages, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), or even hybrid loans that combine features of both.

Investment Properties: Conventional loans are often a preferred choice for financing investment properties, such as rental homes or multi-unit buildings. Government-backed loans generally have stricter restrictions on using the property as a rental.


Understanding conventional loans is essential for anyone considering homeownership or property investment. These mortgage loans offer flexibility, lower costs, and a variety of options. By meeting the requirements, potential borrowers can secure a conventional loan and enjoy the benefits of financing their dream home or investment property with the support of private lenders and investors.

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