The Complete Guide to New Construction Loan Requirements in 2023

Building a new home from the ground up can be an exciting yet daunting process. With so many details to coordinate, from selecting a reputable builder to finalizing blueprints and budgets, securing financing is a critical early step New construction loans allow borrowers to finance the building of a new residential property, but meeting the requirements can present challenges

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about new construction loan requirements. Whether you’re looking to build your dream home or invest in a new construction investment property, understanding these key criteria will help set you on the path to success.

What is a New Construction Loan?

A new construction loan is a short-term financing option intended to cover the costs of building a new home. The loan provides periodic disbursements to the builder during each phase of construction. Once the home is completed and receives an occupancy permit, the construction loan converts into a traditional permanent mortgage.

New construction loans differ from purchase mortgages in a few key ways

  • Shorter Term: Typically around 12 months to cover just the construction timeframe.

  • Interest-Only Payments: Monthly payments only cover accrued interest until the home is complete.

  • Higher Interest Rates: Lenders consider these loans riskier than mortgages on existing homes.

  • Two-Loan Process: You must refinance into a conventional mortgage after construction completes.

While lenders have varying requirements, new construction loans typically come with more stringent criteria compared to standard mortgages. Meeting these requirements demonstrates to the lender you can successfully complete and pay for the new build.

New Construction Loan Requirements

Lenders analyze numerous factors when underwriting new construction loans. While specific requirements can vary, here are some of the most common eligibility standards:

Credit Score

Most lenders require a minimum credit score between 620 and 640. Some may accept scores as low as 580 for borrowers with excellent assets and income. The higher your score, the better your chances of approval and securing a lower interest rate.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio must generally fall at 50% or below. This compares your total monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income. The lower your DTI, the more confident lenders are in your ability to handle the new mortgage payment.

Down Payment

Expect to make a down payment of at least 10-20% of the home’s appraised value. Some lenders may require as much as 25-30% down for new construction. The more you put down, the less risk for the lender.


Many lenders want to see you have 6-12 months of mortgage payments saved in liquid reserves like checking/savings accounts. Reserves provide a financial buffer in case unexpected expenses arise.

Builder Requirements

Your chosen builder must be approved by the lender and provide all required licenses, insurance, and background docs. Their financial strength and reputation heavily influence the loan decision.

Construction Plans

Submitting complete, contractor-approved blueprints and specifications proves to the lender your plans are feasible. Detailed cost breakdowns and timelines help demonstrate you’ve budgeted sufficiently for the project.


The lender will order an appraisal to estimate the future value of the completed home. This helps ensure the property will be worth at least the loan amount after construction.

Types of New Construction Loans

While conventional new construction loans are most common, other varieties exist that each have their own set of requirements.

FHA Construction Loans

FHA construction loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration offer flexible credit and down payment options to borrowers unable to qualify for conventional financing. Key features include:

  • Minimum credit score of just 580

  • Down payments as low as 3.5%

  • Allows sweat equity to satisfy some down payment funds

  • No need for completed plans/specifications upfront

VA Construction Loans

VA construction loans help eligible veterans and service members finance new home construction. Perks include:

  • No minimum credit score

  • No down payment required

  • Reduced closing costs

  • Relaxed underwriting requirements

  • Access to VA’s builder deposit guarantee program

USDA Construction Loans

For new builds in designated rural areas, USDA construction loans offer:

  • No minimum credit score

  • 100% financing with no down payment

  • Low fixed interest rates

  • Limited paperwork and underwriting requirements

Renovation Loans

If you want to finance construction while also purchasing an existing home needing renovations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer HomeStyle renovation mortgages. Key traits include:

  • Credit scores as low as 620

  • Finance purchase + renovations in one loan

  • Up to 50% of home’s value can fund renovations

  • Streamlined low-doc underwriting

Applying for a New Construction Loan

Follow these key steps when applying for new construction financing:

1. Pick a Reputable Builder

Research and vet potential contractors thoroughly. Many lenders have approved builder lists and minimum experience requirements.

2. Submit Your Plans for Review

Provide detailed blueprints, specs, budgets, and timelines. The lender must review and approve your project before issuing the loan.

3. Get Pre-Approved

Document your income, assets, credit, and down payment funds. This shows the lender you can qualify for financing.

4. Purchase the Land

If you don’t already own the lot, now is the time to close on the land purchase.

5. Finalize Construction Loan Details

Select your lender, lock your rate once approved, and review all terms before signing.

6. Make Interest Payments

Make monthly interest-only payments to the lender during the build.

7. Complete Construction

Your lender will order final inspections. Once approved, obtain your certificate of occupancy.

8. Convert to Permanent Mortgage

Work quickly to refinance into a conventional mortgage once construction completes.

5 Tips for Securing Construction Loan Approval

Getting approved for new construction financing takes careful preparation and diligence. Here are 5 tips to boost your chances:

  • Improve your credit score – Give yourself 6+ months to increase your score before applying. Pay down debts and correct any errors.

  • Lower your DTI – Reduce recurring debts and avoid taking on new installment loans before applying. Pay off credit cards to lower utilization.

  • Make a sizable down payment – New construction loans often require 20-30% down. Save aggressively and limit spending before applying.

  • Choose your contractor carefully – Find an experienced local builder with a strong reputation. Ask for referrals from past clients.

  • Have project plans finalized – Work with your builder to complete blueprints, specs, schedules, and budgets. The more prepared you are, the better.

Alternatives to New Construction Loans

If you don’t qualify for a new construction loan, all hope is not lost. Consider these alternative financing options:

  • Portfolio loan – Some local banks and credit unions offer portfolio construction loans with easier requirements.

  • Renovation loan – Finance a remodel of an existing home you purchase with a HomeStyle renovation mortgage.

  • Personal loan – Unsecured personal loans with fixed payments can fund smaller home improvement projects.

  • Home equity loan – Existing homeowners can tap home equity to finance construction costs.

  • Owner-builder loan – For DIY builders with specialized construction experience/licensing.

  • Private construction loan – Hard money and private lenders offer financing to riskier borrowers, often with higher rates/fees.

The Bottom Line

Financing new construction with today’s rising home prices and interest rates presents obstacles. While requirements are stricter than a conventional mortgage, new construction loans allow you to build your dream home tailored to your needs. Come prepared with a strong financial profile, reputable builder, and complete plans to improve your chances of securing approval. With proper diligence, you can successfully navigate the process – and enjoy the home you’ve always envisioned.

How Do Construction Loans Work?

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What Is A Construction Loan?

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Construction Loan Requirements 2024 – HOW To Build Your OWN House!


Is a construction loan harder to get than a mortgage?

In general, it is harder to qualify for a construction loan than for a traditional mortgage. Most lenders require a credit score of at least 680 — which is higher than what you’d need for most conventional, VA and FHA loans.

What credit score is needed to build a house?

Credit Score and Income Minimums Additionally, don’t make any large purchases in the months before you’re going to apply for a construction loan. Most lenders typically want a minimal credit score of 680 for the loan to be considered, some want the score to be 720 or better.

What is the debt to income ratio for a construction loan?

FHA construction loan requirements Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: No more than 43 percent (with some exceptions) Down payment: 3.5 percent with a credit score of at least 580, or at least 10 percent with a credit score between 500 and 579.

How does interest work on a construction loan?

Pay Interest Only During Construction: With a construction loan, your monthly interest payments are calculated and applied based only on what construction funds you draw each month. This offers substantial relief over the alternative, which would be paying interest on the entire loan amount every month.

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