Conventional Loans: What You Need To Know

Irina Tsymbaliuk
Conventional Loans

Thinking about buying a new home? Navigating the world of mortgages can be overwhelming, but understanding the ins and outs of conventional loans can make your journey smoother. In this material, we will find out a conventional mortgage definition, its pros and cons, and what you should keep in mind when applying.

Ready to dive in and discover how a conventional loan can work for you? Let’s get started!

Conventional Loan Definition: Unpacking the Requirements

What is a conventional loan? It is any mortgage loan that is not insured or guaranteed by the government (such as under Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, or Department of Agriculture loan programs).

Conventional Loan Definition

It is the most common type of credit for housing in the USA, thanks to flexible conditions:

  • Profitable interest rates—fixed or adjustable;
  • Repayment term—15 or 30 years.

However, to qualify for a conventional loan, you must meet certain requirements, the so-called fourth eligibility criteria.

  • Higher credit rating

The minimum score ranges from 620 to 640, and higher points lead to better interest rates. Your credit report reflects the borrowing history, so a history of timely payments and responsible debt management bodes well.

  • Willingness to make the first payment

Conventional loans allow for a down payment of up to 3%, but in this case, you must pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). This additional monthly fee protects the lender in case of default and lowers your monthly payment.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

DTI is a financial indicator that measures monthly debt obligations compared to gross monthly income. 43% is the maximum DTI for a conventional home loan, meaning that your monthly debt payments should not exceed 43% of your monthly pre-tax income. This speaks to your ability to manage finances and repay credit.

  • Obtaining a stable income

In addition to the aforementioned factors, lenders also consider the regularity of your salary or other income. Your ability to repay a credit over an extended period hinges on your financial stability. A two-year employment history is often seen as an indicator of income stability.

Documentation requirements

Now that we have answered the question, “What is a conventional mortgage?” let’s focus on the necessary documents. Although the mortgage landscape has changed since the 2007 subprime crisis, the basic documentation requirements for conventional loans remain relatively unchanged.

To ensure a smooth application process, it is worth preparing a package of documents the lender requires. It includes:

  1. A mortgage application is a formal loan request, often accompanied by a processing fee.
  • Documents confirming income:
  • Receipts for wages (income for 30 days, income for the current year);
  • Forms W-2 for two years;
  • Bank statements (checks, savings, investments) for 60 days.

Self-employed individuals may need additional documentation of business income.

  • Payment receipts to confirm employment.

Self-employed individuals may need additional documentation of business income.

  • Assets and reserves:
  • Bank statements and investment score documents;
  • “Gift letters” from the depositor (provided that you receive cash assistance with a down payment from a 3rd party without a refund).
  • Additional documentation:
  • Valid driver’s license or government ID;
  • Social Security Number (SSN);
  • A copy of the signature.

Remember, transparency increases your chances of getting a good deal on a conventional loan.

Conventional Loan Options

Conventional Loan Options

What is conventional financing meaning for many Americans? Stability, flexibility, and favorable terms. It’s an excellent choice for potential homeowners. So, let’s discuss conventional loan options.

1. Conforming Loans

Conform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines, having loan limits (for example, $726,200 in 2023). Suitable for a borrower with a credit who does not need a large loan.

2. Jumbo Loans

Exceed the maximum limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This makes this option more risky for lenders, so borrowers with such loans usually face stricter qualification requirements. However, large loans do not always come with higher rates. This kind of loan is good for borrowers who need more money for more expensive real estate.

3. Portfolio Loans

Are provided by the lender and offer more flexibility to qualify (for example, lower down payments). But they may have higher interest rates. It is a loan that remains in the lender and is not sold on the secondary market.

4. Fixed-Rate Loans

Offer stability during the entire period of credit validity because the interest rate remains unchanged. It provides predictable monthly payments, making it a perfect choice for a borrower who values ​​clear expectations and budgeting.

5. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs)

Offer a lower initial interest rate than fixed. They can change during the period of credit validity. This is beneficial for a borrower who plans to refinance or sell the house before the end of the introductory period at a fixed rate. However, weighing the risks is essential, as your monthly payments may increase, making budgeting difficult.

Contact a mortgage lending specialist to find a conventional loan that meets your financial situation and goals.

Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Conventional Loans

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conventional Loans

Analysis of the key advantages and disadvantages of conventional loans and weighing them against your financial situation and goals will help you determine if this type of loan is the right choice.


  • Competitive interest rates. Unlike state options that have higher interest rates, a conventional loan meaning corresponds to significant savings over the life of your mortgage.
  • Flexible advance payments. Although the 20% down payment excludes PMI, some conventional loans allow reducing only 3%. This opens the door to homeownership to a broader range of borrowers.
  • Variety of credit products. Conventional loans are available in various formats, including fixed and variable interest rates (ARMs). It allows a borrower to select the best option that will conform to their financial goals and risk tolerance.
  • Possibility of refinancing. Conventional loans do not have restrictions on refinancing, while FHA loans give the borrower more flexibility in refinancing the mortgage to get better terms.
  • Option to exit PMI. Thanks to conventional loans, upon reaching 80% LTV (loan-to-value ratio), the borrower can cancel PMI, thus reducing their monthly payments.

The merits are undeniable, as they allow the borrower to build equity by owning a home from the start. However, like any credit offer, this type of loan has certain disadvantages.


  • Stricter creditworthiness requirements. As a rule, conventional loans require higher credit ratings (over 620) and a better debt-to-income ratio than FHA loans.
  • Higher interest rates. Conventional loans have a little higher rates compared to FHA or VA loans. The difference may seem small, but it can add up to significant savings over the life of your mortgage. For example, you will take a loan with an interest rate of 5% instead of an FHA loan at 4.5%, and you will pay thousands of dollars more over the course of the entire mortgage term.
  • Additional commissions. They are valid only for certain types of real estate (manufactured or second homes, condos, etc.) and borrower-non-owner. The lender considers these categories to be riskier investments.

Note that not all conventional loans have all these disadvantages. Some lenders offer more flexible terms, and market conditions affect availability and pricing.

Final Thought

So, what’s a conventional loan? If you understand conventional mortgage meaning, it becomes clear that this offers potential real estate owners flexibility and freedom of choice. You can choose from the properties you want, knowing that you have access to favorable terms and stable interest rates.