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  • Fifty million Americans live in rural areas around the United States, around 19% of the total population. Rural areas often suffer from lower incomes, lower standards of health care, and less chances of finding a decent home and the mortgage that generally goes with it. In South Carolina the percentage of residents living in rural areas is higher than average: around 24.5% of the total population.

    If you are living in a rural area, that is a location attached to a town with a population of around 10,000, you can qualify for help from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The United States Department of Agriculture is a large organization that provides programs in areas ranging from agricultural marketing to risk management, as well as rural housing.

    The main program offered to people looking for housing under the USDA is Guaranteed Rural Housing loan program. However, there are many more programs you should look into if you own a home, or are planning to. For example, check out the Water & Waste Disposal Loans, Rural Broadband Loans & Grants, or Distance Learning & Telemedicine Loans & Grants.

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    The USDA has loaned over $600 million as part of the Guaranteed Rural Housing program since it began in 1991. The USDA offers loans to borrowers without cash reserves, do not require down payments and offer 30-year fixed rate mortgages. To qualify it is crucial you home is within a designated rural area. Check if your property is eligible here. Your household income must also be within program limits. The income limit depends on the number of people in your household, how many are under age, disabled, or if you are over 62 years of age. Find out what the income limits are in your case here.

    Loans under this program are provided by private lenders; the USDA works as an insurer to lenders to guarantee preferential rates and terms. The rates offered under the GRH are amazing: 2% for homebuyer’s loans and 0.5% for refinances! Under the USDA you can borrow up to 102% of the market value of your property. These loans DO NOT require mortgage insurance premiums. You can use them to buy an existing house, or build a new one. However, some restrictions do apply: it cannot be manufactured housing (i.e. trailers, prefabricated houses), and cannot have an in-ground pool. This is for low-income borrowers.

    Find out more information about the USDA in South Carolina here.

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