Jumbo vs. Conventional Loans: What's the Difference?

Choosing the right type of home loan is a critical decision for any homebuyer or investor. Understanding the differences between jumbo and conventional loans can help you make an informed choice that aligns with your financial goals. 

We'll explore these two types of loans in detail, highlighting their criteria, benefits, and drawbacks.

What Is a Conventional Loan?

A conventional loan is a mortgage issued by a lender without federal government backing. However, to be sold on the secondary market, it must adhere to the standards set by government agencies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

They are categorized into conforming and non-conforming loans, with conforming loans adhering to the limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These loans can be used to purchase primary residences, second homes, and investment properties, offering borrowers flexibility in how they use the loan.

Common Criteria for Obtaining a Conventional Loan

  • Credit Score: To qualify for a conventional loan, borrowers typically need a credit score of at least 620. However, higher credit scores can secure better interest rates and terms. A strong credit score reflects your ability to manage debt responsibly, which is crucial for lenders.

  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: Lenders use the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to assess your ability to repay the loan. A DTI ratio of 43% or lower is generally required for conventional loans (meaning that your monthly debt payments, including your mortgage, should not exceed 43% of your gross monthly income).

  • Financial History: Your financial history, including your credit history, payment records, and any past bankruptcies or foreclosures, is closely examined.

  • Down Payment: Conventional loans usually require a down payment of at least 3% to 20% of the property’s purchase price. A higher down payment can lower your monthly payments and may eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

  • Property Appraisal: An appraisal is conducted to determine the market value of the property you intend to purchase.

  • Proof of Income: Lenders require proof of stable income to verify your ability to repay the loan. This typically includes recent pay stubs, tax returns, and W-2 forms (additional documentation may be necessary for the self-employed).

  • Residence Type: Conventional loans can be used for a variety of property types, including single-family homes, condos, multi-family properties, and more. The type of property and its intended use can influence the loan terms and eligibility criteria.

Conventional loans offer a range of benefits and flexibility, making them a suitable option for many borrowers. However, it’s important to understand the specific requirements and whether they align with your financial situation and goals. 

What Are the Pros of Conventional Loans?

Conventional loans are a popular choice for many homebuyers because of their numerous advantages. 

Here are some pros of conventional loans: 

    • Lower Interest Rates: Lower interest rates mean lower monthly mortgage payments and less interest paid over the life of the loan, making conventional loans a cost-effective choice for many borrowers.

  • Flexible Repayment Terms: Conventional loans offer a variety of repayment terms, typically ranging from 10 to 30 years. This flexibility allows borrowers to choose a term that best fits their financial situation and long-term plans.

  • Lower Down Payment: Conventional loans often require lower down payments compared to jumbo loans, with options as low as 3%. This makes it easier for homebuyers to secure financing without needing a large initial sum, which is particularly beneficial for first-time buyers.

If you can make a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s purchase price, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) with a conventional loan. PMI is typically required for down payments of less than 20% to protect the lender in case of default. Avoiding PMI can significantly reduce your monthly mortgage payment and overall loan costs.

What Are the Cons of Conventional Loans?

While conventional loans offer many benefits, they also come with drawbacks that may not make them suitable for every borrower. Understanding these cons can help you weigh your options and determine the best financing solution for your needs.

  • Strict Credit Requirements: Conventional loans often have stricter credit requirements than government-backed loans, such as FHA or VA loans. A minimum credit score of 620 is typically required, but higher scores are usually needed to secure the best interest rates and terms.

  • Mortgage Insurance Possibility: If your down payment is less than 20%, you will be required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) with a conventional loan. PMI protects the lender in case of default and can add a significant cost to your monthly mortgage payment.

  • Limitations on Loan Amounts: Conventional loans limit the amount you can borrow, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) sets these limits annually. For 2023, the conforming loan limit for single-family homes in most areas is $726,200, with higher limits in high-cost areas.

  • Stringent Approval Process: The approval process for conventional loans can be more stringent and time-consuming than other loan types. Lenders require comprehensive documentation, including proof of income, credit history, and detailed financial records.

What Is a Jumbo Loan?

A jumbo loan is a type of mortgage designed to finance properties that exceed the conforming loan limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Jumbo loans are essential for purchasing luxury homes and high-value real estate properties that require more substantial funding than conventional loans can provide.

Jumbo loans have distinct criteria because of the increased risk they pose to lenders. Borrowers typically need an excellent credit score, a very low debt-to-income ratio, and a significant down payment. 

Additionally, proof of high income and substantial cash reserves are often required to demonstrate the borrower’s financial stability. These loans also necessitate detailed documentation, including thorough property appraisals, to ensure the investment's value justifies the loan amount.

What Are the Pros of Jumbo Loans?

Jumbo loans offer several advantages that make them an attractive option for financing high-value properties. Understanding these benefits can help you determine if a jumbo loan is the right choice for your real estate investment needs.

  • Financing for High-Value Properties: Jumbo loans can finance high-value properties that exceed the conforming loan limits. This feature is particularly advantageous for buyers purchasing luxury homes, estates, or properties in high-cost real estate markets.

  • More Borrowing Power: Jumbo loans offer borrowers significantly more borrowing power than conventional loans. This increased borrowing capacity allows buyers to consider a broader range of properties and make competitive offers in a competitive housing market.

  • Potential Tax Benefits: While tax laws can vary, some borrowers may be eligible for tax benefits on the interest paid on jumbo loans. Under the current U.S. tax code, mortgage interest on loans up to $750,000 is generally tax-deductible

What Are the Cons of Jumbo Loans?

While jumbo loans offer significant advantages for financing high-value properties, they also come with some notable drawbacks:

  • Higher Interest Rates: Jumbo loans often have higher interest rates than conventional loans. This increase reflects the greater risk lenders take on when offering larger loans.

  • Larger Down Payment Requirements: Securing a jumbo loan typically requires a larger down payment than a conventional loan. While conventional loans may require as little as three to five percent down, jumbo loans often necessitate a down payment of 20% or more.

  • Very Strict Qualification Conditions: The qualification criteria for jumbo loans are notably stringent. Borrowers must demonstrate excellent credit scores, low debt-to-income ratios, and substantial cash reserves.

  • Fewer Lender Options: Not all lenders offer jumbo loans, which can limit your options when seeking financing. This reduced availability means borrowers may need to spend more time researching and comparing lenders to find the best terms and rates. 

What Are the Key Differences Between Jumbo and Conventional Loans?

Understanding the key differences between jumbo and conventional loans is essential for choosing the right mortgage for your needs. 

Here are the main distinctions:

  • Loan Limits: Conventional loans adhere to conforming loan limits set by the FHFA, while jumbo loans exceed these limits.

  • Down Payment: Jumbo loans typically require a larger down payment than conventional loans.

  • Interest Rates: Jumbo loans generally have higher interest rates because of their increased risk to lenders.

  • Credit Score: The credit score requirements for jumbo loans are more stringent.

  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: A very low debt-to-income ratio is essential for jumbo loan approval.

  • Mortgage Insurance: Conventional loans with a down payment of less than 20% often require private mortgage insurance (PMI).

  • Loan Options and Lender Variety: Conventional loans are widely available through many lenders, offering various loan products and terms. Jumbo loans are less commonly offered, reducing the number of available lenders and loan options.

8 Factors To Consider When Choosing Between a Jumbo and Conventional Loan

Choosing the right loan for your property purchase involves careful consideration of several key factors. Whether you're leaning toward a jumbo loan or a conventional loan, understanding these factors can help you make an informed decision.

1. Property Value

The value of the property you're looking to purchase is a primary consideration. Jumbo loans are designed for high-value properties that exceed the conforming loan limits set by the FHFA. If your property falls within these limits, a conventional loan might be a more suitable option.

2. Down Payment Size

Your available down payment significantly impacts your loan choice. Jumbo loans typically require a down payment of at least 20%, while conventional loans can require as little as three percent. Assess your financial situation to determine which down payment requirement you can comfortably meet.

3. Credit Score

Your credit score plays a crucial role in loan approval and interest rates. Jumbo loans require excellent credit scores, often higher than those needed for conventional loans. Evaluate your credit score to see which loan type you are more likely to qualify for.

4. Debt-to-Income Ratio

Lenders scrutinize your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to assess your ability to manage loan payments. Jumbo loans require a very low DTI, reflecting the higher risk to lenders. Conventional loans have more lenient DTI requirements, making them accessible to a broader range of borrowers.

5. Financial Stability

Your overall financial stability, including income, employment history, and cash reserves, is critical. Jumbo loans require substantial cash reserves and proof of high income, ensuring you can manage larger loan payments. 

6. Future Plans

Consider your long-term financial and property ownership goals. If you plan to invest in high-value real estate and have the financial capacity to manage a larger loan, a jumbo loan might be advantageous. For those with more modest goals or uncertain financial futures, a conventional loan could be a safer choice.

7. Interest Rate Affordability

Interest rates affect the total cost of your loan. Jumbo loans often come with higher interest rates compared to conventional loans. Calculate the long-term cost implications of interest rates to determine which loan type is more affordable for you.

8. Mortgage Insurance

Conventional loans with less than 20% down payment typically require private mortgage insurance (PMI), adding to your monthly expenses. While not requiring PMI, jumbo loans demand higher down payments as a risk mitigation measure. Weigh the cost of PMI against the higher down payment to decide which is more feasible.

The Bottom Line: Deciding What Works Best for You

Choosing between a jumbo loan and a conventional loan depends on various personal and financial factors. It's crucial to consider property value, down payment size, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, financial stability, future plans, interest rate affordability, and the need for mortgage insurance. Each of these factors will guide you toward the loan type that best fits your needs and goals.

Vaster is here to provide expert guidance and tailored financing solutions for home loans. Our deep market knowledge and experience in residential and commercial loans can help you find the best option for your situation. 

Whether you're looking for a jumbo loan to finance a high-value property or a conventional loan with flexible terms, Vaster can help you figure it out, backed by strong market expertise.

For more information on our loan options and to start your application process, visit our application page. Whether you're purchasing a new property or refinancing an existing one, Vaster is your trusted partner in achieving your real estate goals.


Conforming Vs. Non-Conforming Loan: Which Is Best For You? | Forbes Advisor

Conforming loan limits 2023 | CNBC

What Is a Jumbo Loan? | Investopedia

How To Qualify For Mortgage Interest Deduction for 2024 | Forbes Advisor

Be the first to know.

Get exclusive access to our latest insights and upcoming events