Understanding Conventional Mortgages: A Comprehensive Guide

Buying a home is an exciting and significant milestone in life. For most people, it's the largest financial decision they'll ever make. To make this dream a reality, many prospective homeowners turn to mortgages to secure the funds needed to purchase their dream property. Among the various mortgage options available, conventional mortgages are one of the most popular choices. We will delve into the world of conventional mortgages, exploring what they are, how they work, their advantages, and other essential aspects.

What is a Conventional Mortgage?

A conventional mortgage refers to a home loan that isn't insured or guaranteed by a government agency like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Instead, conventional mortgages are offered and supported by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies. Because conventional loans aren't backed by a government agency such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the lender assumes more risk, which can affect the borrower's eligibility criteria and loan terms.

Key Features of Conventional Mortgages

1. Down Payment: Conventional mortgages offer a wide variety of down payment options compared to government-backed loans. While government loans may offer down payment options as low as 3.5% (FHA) or even 0% (VA), conventional mortgages often require a down payment of 5% to 20% of the property's purchase price. However, first time homebuyers can get a down payment as low as 3%.

2. Credit Score: To qualify for a conventional mortgage, borrowers typically need a stronger credit profile compared to government-backed loans. A credit score of 620 or higher is generally considered the minimum requirement, but a score closer to 700 or above can improve your chances of securing a better interest rate.

3. Interest Rates: Interest rates on conventional mortgages can vary based on factors like credit score, down payment, and current market conditions. Generally, borrowers with better credit scores and larger down payments are likely to qualify for more favorable interest rates.

4. Loan Limits: Unlike government-backed mortgages, conventional loans have maximum loan limits set by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These limits vary by location and are subject to change each year based on housing market trends.

5. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): If a borrower puts down less than 20% of the home's purchase price, the lender may require Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI protects the lender in case the borrower defaults on the loan. Once the borrower builds enough equity in the property, they can request the removal of PMI. For high credit scores and low debt, PMI can be extremely affordable so that many borrowers choose to pay PMI rather than spend all their cash on a down payment.

Advantages of Conventional Mortgages

1. Flexibility: Conventional loans offer more flexibility in terms of loan amounts, property types, and repayment options, making them suitable for various types of homebuyers. Also, it is much easier to buy a condo with a conventional mortgage compared to FHA and VA loans.

2. No Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium: Unlike FHA loans, conventional mortgages do not require an upfront mortgage insurance premium, which can reduce the overall upfront costs of purchasing a home.

3. Ability to Avoid Mortgage Insurance: Borrowers who can afford a 20% down payment can avoid the cost of Private Mortgage Insurance, which can save them money on their monthly mortgage payments. Also, PMI for conventional mortgages tends to come off the loan more quickly than for an FHA loan.

4. Refinancing Opportunities: With conventional mortgages, homeowners have better access to refinancing options, which can be beneficial if interest rates drop or if the borrower's financial situation improves.


Conventional mortgages are a popular choice for homebuyers who have strong credit profiles and the ability to make any type of down payment. While they may have higher initial requirements, the flexibility, potential cost savings, and ability to avoid mortgage insurance can make them a smart long-term financial option. However, it's essential to shop around, compare offers with your Lakeside mortgage consultant, and carefully consider your financial situation before committing to a conventional mortgage. As with any major financial decision, seeking guidance from a reputable mortgage advisor can help you navigate the process and find the best mortgage solution for your needs. Happy house hunting!

Jim Pomposelli - Lakeside Bank Loan Programs