ReSET Blog
Blog · May 09, 2024 · AUTHOR: Daniel Parzivand

Exploring Conventional Mortgages: A Guide for Homebuyers

Introduction to Conventional Mortgages:

When it comes to financing a home, conventional mortgages are among the most popular options for buyers. Unlike government-backed loans, conventional mortgages are not insured by federal agencies, which means they often come with stricter eligibility requirements but also offer greater flexibility. In this guide, we will explore what conventional mortgages are, the requirements for obtaining one, and the different options available to homebuyers.

What Are Conventional Mortgages?

Conventional mortgages are home loans that are not guaranteed or insured by the federal government. They are typically offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies. These loans can be conforming, meaning they adhere to the loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or non-conforming, which do not follow these guidelines and often cater to borrowers with unique financial situations.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conventional Mortgages:

Conventional mortgages come with a range of benefits and some drawbacks that buyers should consider:


  • Flexibility: Borrowers have more options in terms of loan amounts and repayment terms.
  • Lower Costs: Without the need for government insurance, conventional loans often have lower overall costs.
  • No Mortgage Insurance: If you can make a down payment of 20% or more, you can avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI).


  • Stricter Requirements: Higher credit scores and lower debt-to-income ratios are typically required.
  • Larger Down Payments: Conventional loans often require larger down payments compared to government-backed loans.

Conventional Loan Requirements:

To qualify for a conventional mortgage, you need to meet certain criteria:

  1. Credit Score: Most lenders require a minimum credit score of 620, but a higher score can help you secure better terms.
  2. Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): Ideally, your DTI should be below 43%, but some lenders may accept higher ratios with compensating factors.
  3. Down Payment: While you can put down as little as 3% with some conventional loans, a 20% down payment allows you to avoid PMI.
  4. Employment and Income Verification: Lenders will want to see a stable employment history and consistent income.

Comparing Conventional Loan Options:

There are several types of conventional loans available, each suited to different borrower needs:

Fixed-Rate Mortgages:

  • Definition: The interest rate remains constant throughout the loan term, providing predictable monthly payments.
  • Benefits: Stability and ease of budgeting.
  • Common Terms: 15, 20, or 30 years.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs):

  • Definition: The interest rate can fluctuate based on market conditions after an initial fixed-rate period.
  • Benefits: Lower initial rates compared to fixed-rate mortgages.
  • Common Terms: 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, or 10/1 ARMs (initial fixed-rate period followed by annual adjustments).

Interest-Only Loans:

  • Definition: Borrowers pay only the interest for a set period before beginning to pay both principal and interest.
  • Benefits: Lower initial payments.
  • Considerations: Payments will increase significantly after the interest-only period ends.

Tips for Choosing the Right Conventional Loan:

  1. Assess Your Financial Situation: Consider your credit score, income stability, and how much you can afford for a down payment.
  2. Compare Lenders: Shop around to find the best terms and interest rates.
  3. Evaluate Loan Terms: Choose between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages based on your financial goals and how long you plan to stay in the home.
  4. Consider Future Changes: Think about potential changes in your income or expenses that could affect your ability to make mortgage payments.

Applying for a Conventional Mortgage:

  1. Pre-Approval: Start by getting pre-approved for a mortgage. This involves a preliminary review of your financial situation by a lender and helps you understand how much you can afford.
  2. Documentation: Gather necessary documents, such as proof of income, tax returns, bank statements, and employment verification.
  3. Loan Application: Submit a formal loan application with your chosen lender.
  4. Home Appraisal: The lender will order an appraisal to determine the property's value.
  5. Underwriting: The lender's underwriter will review your application and documents to assess your risk as a borrower.
  6. Closing: If approved, you'll proceed to closing, where you'll sign the final documents and pay any closing costs.


Conventional mortgages offer flexibility and a range of options for homebuyers who meet the eligibility requirements. By understanding the different types of conventional loans and what lenders look for, you can make an informed decision that best suits your financial situation and homeownership goals. Stay tuned for our next article, where we'll dive into FHA loans and their benefits for first-time homebuyers.

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