Skip to content

What is an FHA 203k loan?

Jim Quist Oct 16, 2023 10:00:00 AM
FHA 203k loan home renovation mortgage

An FHA 203k loan is a type of mortgage designed to help homebuyers purchase a property and finance the cost of renovations or repairs into a single mortgage.

The 203k loan has two parts. 

  1. At closing: Use part of the loan to purchase the property from the seller. The lender holds the portion of the loan you will use for renovations in an escrow account.
  2. After closing: The lender releases the renovation funds to your general contractor, typically in stages, as the work progresses.

The loan amount and the amount of your down payment depend on the property's value after completing the renovations. Here's an example of how to calculate the after-improved property value.


Let's say you want to buy a house for $300,000 but need $35,000 in repairs. 

  •    $300,000 purchase price
  • + $35,000 in repairs
  • = $335,000 After-improved property value


With a minimum down payment of 3.5% of the after-improved value, you can buy, fix up, and potentially increase a home's value, all while keeping your upfront costs relatively low. 

This financing option is beneficial when you want to buy a property with renovation potential but have limited resources for a traditional down payment and renovation budget.

Get pre-approved


What type of property can I purchase using an FHA 203k loan?

You can use an FHA 203k loan to purchase and renovate residential 1-to-4-unit properties, such as: 

The FHA 203k loan is for buying or refinancing a primary residence only, and you must live in the property for at least 12 months after taking out the loan. It's not meant for vacation homes or investment properties like long-term rentals or fix and flips. 


Jacob wants to buy and fix up a two-unit property. He's eligible for an FHA 203k loan because he plans to live in one of the units for at least a year. 


Talk with an FHA 203k expert at NewCastle Home Loans for details to ensure you're eligible for FHA guidelines regarding the property type and occupancy requirements.

Book time to talk


What repairs can I do with an FHA 203k loan?

With an FHA 203k loan, you can finance a wide range of repairs and renovations to improve the condition and livability of the property. 

You can use an FHA 203k loan for the following home improvements:

  • Cosmetic: Paint, replace appliances, install flooring.
  • Structural: Repair the foundation, roof, walls, and floors.
  • Electrical, plumbing, heating/cooling: Fix leaks and add HVAC systems..
  • Accessibility: Add ramps or widen doorways for seniors and disabled people.
  • Energy efficiency: Install windows and insulation.
  • Safety: Remediate mold or lead paint.

203k loans don't allow for certain types of improvements: 

  • Luxury or non-essential features, such as swimming pools, hot tubs, outdoor kitchens, or similar amenities
  • Movable appliances or furniture
  • Extensive landscaping projects

Work closely with an experienced 203k lender, like NewCastle Home Loans, to ensure the planned renovations meet FHA 203k program guidelines.

Book time to talk 

What is a Limited FHA 203k loan?

A Limited FHA 203k loan, also known as the Streamline 203k, is a simplified version of the standard FHA 203k loan program. Use it for smaller-scale repairs that don't require major structural changes or significant alterations to the property.

Limited 203k:

  • $35,000 or less
  • Ideal for smaller cosmetic upgrades and minor repairs
  • Less paperwork and quicker processing time compared to the Standard 203k

The Standard FHA 203k loan may be more appropriate if your renovation project costs over $35,000 or involves structural changes.

  • More than $35,000
  • Ideal for significant rehabilitation projects that may involve major changes to the property
  • Requires a HUD-approved consultant to create a detailed work plan, oversee the project, and ensure compliance with FHA guidelines


You find a property listed at a reasonable purchase price in a great location. Still, it needs work to make it livable.

Unfortunately, you can't get approved for a traditional mortgage without first making repairs, and you can't make repairs without owning the property.

In this scenario, you can use the Limited 203k loan to purchase the property and make the repairs after closing. 

Talk to a qualified NewCastle Home Loans mortgage officer to determine the best option for your renovation needs.

Book time to talk


What is the minimum credit score for an FHA 203k loan?

The credit score requirements for FHA 203k loans vary depending on the lender. 

Most lenders require a 620 minimum credit score. However, some lenders, like NewCastle Home Loans, approve FHA 203k loan applications for home buyers with credit scores of 580 and higher.

580 - NewCastle's minimum credit score for the FHA 203k loan

Mortgage lenders check all three credit bureaus and use the middle score to evaluate your creditworthiness. The three credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. 


If your scores are:

  • 720
  • 700
  • 680

The mortgage lender will use your middle score of 700 when qualifying you for the mortgage.


In addition to credit score, lenders consider other factors when qualifying you for an FHA 203k loan, such as employment history, debt-to-income ratio, and the source of funds for the down payment and closing costs. 

The lender must submit your application through FHA's automated underwriting. This computer program assesses your creditworthiness and determines whether you qualify for the loan. 

Check with your lender for the specific requirements and qualification standards for the FHA 203k loan.

Book time to talk


How much is the down payment for an FHA 203k loan? 

The minimum down payment for an FHA 203k loan is 3.5% of the after-improved property value.


Let's say you want to buy a house for $300,000 but need $35,000 in repairs. 

  •    $300,000 purchase price
  • + $35,000 in repairs
  • = $335,000 After-improved property value 
  • × 3.5% Down payment, percentage of after-improved property value
  • = $11,725 Down payment

You can get the down payment from your savings, including retirement savings, or a relative can give it to you. Some lenders may offer down payment assistance if you meet certain income and credit requirements.

Check with NewCastle Home Loans for specific down payment requirements for the FHA 203k loan and other qualification standards.

Book time to talk


How to estimate a property's value before applying for an FHA 203k loan?

Estimating a property's value before applying for an FHA 203k loan involves several steps:

  • Research comparable sales. Your real estate agent will help you identify recently sold properties in the neighborhood similar in size, style, age, and condition. These comps will help establish a realistic estimate of the property's market value after renovations.
  • Consider potential renovations. If you have specific renovations in mind, consider how they will impact the property's value. Upgrading kitchens, bathrooms, and other vital areas can add significant value.
  • Factor in renovation costs. Gauge the work required to bring the property up to market standards. This information is vital for creating an accurate renovation budget that aligns with market expectations.

Be realistic and conservative in your estimations. Overestimating the after-improved value could lead to challenges in the loan approval process. Additionally, the lender will order an appraisal before finalizing the loan amount.

Find out how to buy and fix a home with an FHA 203k mortgage. Get a free copy of our step-by-step guide that breaks it down, making the FHA 203k loan easy to understand.

Get you free guide now


How lenders determine the property's after-improved value for FHA 203k loans

The lender determines the property's after-improved value using a combination of methods, including:

  • Review the real estate appraisal report. The lender selects a real estate appraiser for the property's after-improved value. The appraiser inspects the property, reviews your renovation plans, and analyzes comparable sales to estimate the value after improvements.
  • Review your renovation plans. Give the lender a copy of the contractor's bid outlining the scope of work and project costs.
  • Ensure the loan meets FHA's guidelines. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) sets the requirements, standards, and regulations that lenders and borrowers must follow when applying for and using FHA 203k loans.

Overall, using the after-improved value gives you the financial means to transform a property into an ideal home while potentially increasing its market value.

Establishing the after-improved value is critical. It must be sufficient to justify the loan amount. If the appraisal falls short, it may impact the loan approval, and you might have to adjust your renovation plans. 

Ultimately, the lender's goal is to ensure that the property's value post-renovation aligns with the investment, providing a sound basis for the loan.

Book time to talk


How do I get pre-approved for an FHA 203k loan?

Your 203k renovation project starts with a verified mortgage pre-approval. 

  1. Find an FHA-approved lender. Not all lenders offer 203k loans, so you'll want to work with an experienced FHA 203k lender to help you navigate the complexities of the program and ensure your renovation project succeeds. (Search HUD Lender List)
  2. Get a verified mortgage pre-approval letter. Submit your financial information and documentation to the lender. They will verify your credit, employment, income, and source of funds for your home purchase, ensuring you meet the 203k loan requirements. 
  3. Find a property you want to purchase and renovate. Your real estate agent will help you make an offer to the seller to buy it.

A verified pre-approval is more reliable and trustworthy than a basic one as it takes into account a more comprehensive view of your financial situation.

Financing problems are a significant reason why home sales fall through. Before accepting your offer, sellers want to feel confident you can get the loan you need to buy their house. Therefore, the quality of the mortgage pre-approval letter is often the deciding factor for sellers.

Start now and get approved on the same day.

Get pre-approved



Jim Quist NewCastle Home Loans
President and Founder of NewCastle Home Loans. Jim has been in the mortgage business for 20+ years.

Leave a Comment