The Difference Between FHA Loans and Regular Loans

Categorized as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans

Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of purchasing a home? Many people associate homeownership with the American dream. Getting a mortgage is only one of the steps that most Americans take to become homeowners.

If you’re one of the many Americans on the journey of getting a house, you’ve probably considered FHA loans and regular loans as financing options.

This article will explain the distinctions between FHA loans and regular loans to help guide your final decision.

Before we get started, let’s go through the fundamentals of each. What does each one entail?

FHA Loans

A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is a government-insured house loan granted by a bank or other lender authorized by the agency.

The FHA loan is intended to assist low- to moderate-income households in becoming homeowners. They are most favorable to first-time homebuyers.

Currently, you can borrow up to 96.5 percent of the value of a property with an FHA loan if you have a credit score of at least 580.

This implies that the minimum down payment is only 3.5 percent. Although, if your credit score is between 500 and 579, you can still qualify for an FHA loan. But in this case, you’ll need to make a 10% down payment.

When we say FHA loans are government-insured loans, it means that the agency bears the default risk.

For this reason, many people refer to it as an FHA-insured loan. The FHA doesn’t issue loans to borrowers. The loan is provided by an FHA-approved bank or other financial institutions like credit unions and other lending institutions.

Borrowers who qualify for an FHA loan must acquire mortgage insurance, with the FHA receiving the premium payments. Irrespective of the down payment level, FHA home loans demand an upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) as well as an annual premium.

The upfront charge is 1.75 percent of the amount borrowed, and the annual premium varies between 0.45 percent and 1.05 percent of the loan’s average unpaid balance for the year.

If you make a down payment of less than 10% of the property’s value, the annual mortgage insurance premium, or MIP, is paid in monthly installments for the duration of the FHA loan. But if you put down more than 10%, you’ll only need to bother about MIP for 11 years.

Because FHA loans are government-insured, lenders can provide borrowers who might not otherwise qualify for a house loan with more advantageous terms, such as lower interest rates.

This also means that qualifying for an FHA loan is easier than qualifying for a regular loan.

That’s just about it for FHA loans. Let’s talk about regular loans now and then move on to the differences between both.

Regular Loans

A regular loan, often known as a conventional loan, is any type of house buyer loan that is not issued or secured by a government body.

Instead, regular loans are issued by private lenders such as mortgage companies, credit unions, and banks.

For this reason, banks and creditors often have stringent lending requirements. As a result, lenders only grant regular loans to borrowers with the best financial profiles.

Borrowers must fill out a formal mortgage application and provide all relevant documentation, as well as their credit history and current credit score to get this loan.

Depending on the mortgage type, down payments for regular loans range from 3% to 40%.

Interest rates for regular loans are often higher than those on government-insured mortgages, such as FHA loans. Regular mortgages normally have a fixed interest rate, which implies that the interest rate does not change during the loan’s term.

Before we move on, it is worth mentioning that there’s a type of regular mortgage loan known as conforming loans.

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) set lending guidelines for Conforming loans.

Differences Between FHA Loans and Regular Loans

If you’ve just read the last two outlines, you may have seen a lot of differences between FHA loans and regular loans already. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll have them listed out in the comparison chart below.

FHA LoansRegular Loans
It’s easy to qualify for FHA loans, even with a low credit score.Loans are usually granted to borrowers with the best financial profile.
A minimum credit score of 580 is required. Although, people whose credit scores fall below 580 can still qualify (with a higher percentage of down payment).According to Fannie Mae, regular loans typically demand a credit score of 620. However, lenders can decide to increase their requirements.
A down payment of 3.5% is the minimum for borrowers with a credit score of 580. A credit score less than 580 requires a 10% down payment.A 20% down payment on the home is usually required. Lenders may accept less, but if they do, borrowers are required to obtain private mortgage insurance.
FHA loans are guaranteed or backed by the government.Regular mortgage loans are not insured by the government.
Generally, all FHA loans require insurance.Insurance is usually only required when making a down payment below 20% of the house buying price.

Pros and Cons of FHA Loans


  • The lower credit score and down payment make it suitable for low to moderate-income borrowers who may not qualify for regular loans.
  • FHA create opportunities for many people to be homeowners early in life, as people may not need to keep saving up (while still on rent) or spend time trying to improve their credit scores to meet regular loans standard.


  • Paying mortgage insurance is unavoidable. You may need to make these payments throughout the loan term or for 11 years depending on how much down payment you make.
  • There’s a limitation on the type of property you can purchase. Usually, FHA loans are designed for buying a primary residence.

Pros and Cons of Regular Loans


  • There’s no limitation on the type of property you can get. Getting vacation homes or rental properties is allowed.
  • Mortgage insurance is only required from potential borrowers who can’t provide a 20% down payment.


  • Regular loans are not backed by the government, so the lender bears the risk. As a result, there are relatively strict lending requirements for regular loans.
  • Higher credit scores are required, making it unfavorable for first-time home buyers.

Real-World Experiences: FHA vs. Conventional Loans Discussed on Reddit

Next on our journey into the world of home financing, we’ll hop onto Reddit and look at some real-world experiences with FHA and conventional loans. You see, Reddit is an online community where people from all walks of life share, discuss, and debate on practically every topic under the sun, including our current point of interest – home loans! 

Digging into the threads, we find folks talking about how FHA loans typically require smaller down payments – a boon for many first-time homeowners. But hold your horses – some Redditors point out that this could potentially mean higher overall costs due to those pesky mortgage insurance premiums. 

Another point of discussion is the power of the mighty credit score. It appears conventional loans may roll out the red carpet with sweeter terms for those with top-tier credit scores. Redditors are also chattering about the nuances and fine print, including how these loans might impact your monthly budget and long-term financial game plan. They even touch upon property taxes and homeowners association fees – yep, with this lively community, no stone goes unturned! 

All in all, these Reddit discussions offer a well-rounded perspective, putting technical terminology side by side with real-life tales. Cue the applause! This section is giving us a deeper and richer understanding of the subject matter, packed with insights you’d typically only get over a cup of coffee with a seasoned homeowner or a finance pro.

» Discussions here and here.

Conclusion – Which Loan Is Best?

We’ve discussed the differences between FHA and regular loans. You can now choose which is ideal for you. However, if you qualify for both an FHA loan and a regular loan, compare overall costs to determine which loan will best fit your financial needs.

Finding the perfect home loan can be as complex as a riddle. Both FHA and conventional loans pose unique advantages and challenges. Factors such as your credit score, down payment ability, and long-term finance goals become game-changers. Since circumstances vary for everyone, there’s no one-size-fits-all loan.. Instead, the right path demands a solid understanding of each loan type, coupled with a deep dive into your personal finances and homeownership aspirations.


Why do realtors prefer conventional over FHA? 

Realtors often lean towards conventional loans over FHA loans, and let’s unpack why this might be. On the surface, it’s about the assurance of a smooth transaction. 

With conventional loans, home sales often move faster since they don’t require as many inspections as FHA loans. Consequently, this reduces the likelihood of unexpected hitches derailing the sale at the final stages.

Plus, sellers may be wary of potential repairs required under FHA guidelines. In contrast, conventional loans are often perceived as less stringent, fostering a sense of relief.

So, if you’re contemplating between FHA and conventional loans, do bear these perspectives in mind. Ultimately, it’s all about choosing the option that supports your financing goals efficiently, no matter which side of the sale you’re on.

Can I switch from FHA to conventional? 

Of course, you can make the switch from an FHA to a conventional loan. Sometimes it feels like you’re caught in a game of mortgage pinball, bouncing between the bumper pads of interest rates, amortization schedules, and the seemingly arcane rules for different loan types. But don’t worry—you have the flexibility to change if your current loan type isn’t serving your needs. 

Many homeowners decide to refinance their FHA loans into conventional loans, often to eliminate the requirement for mortgage insurance. This transition isn’t accomplished through a flick of a switch though; it involves refinancing. This means you will need to apply for a new mortgage, which pays off the FHA loan and replaces it with a conventional loan. 

It’s a process with its own set of considerations, including closing costs and your current credit standing. As with any financial decision, it’s crucial to do your homework or consult a professional. Is now the right time? What are the current market conditions? Keep asking the right questions—you’re in control of your financial future, after all.

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