Each local office has different turnaround times on approving files. I do USDA loans all over the country and some offices take 5 business days, some take 6 weeks. The government shutdown stopped USDA in it's tracks, but now that it's over they should begin processing things again. With that being said, it is the government and nothing seems to ever go quickly when it comes to government.
You can ask your lender to request an update from USDA. They probably won't update your specific file, however they will say they are currently viewing applications submitted on X date. If you know the exact date your file was submitted by your lender to USDA then that should give you an idea of when to expect your approval to come through.
Remember Eric, the file cannot generally be submitted to USDA until it has gone through underwriting with your lender and cleared most of the conditions. So if you applied with your lender in mid-september then we're really not talking about a long time here. USDA may not have gotten the file until October.
Dave, If you are looking for a home and through a flood determination that you are in any other zone other than "x" you need flood insurance. Right now in Bucks County their are redoing a lot of the mapping so a property that is close to a plain may not have needed flood insurance but it does this year. Two more things. One, even if your not in a flood plain but have a house with a basement it's a good idea to consider flood insurance and becuase your not in a plain it's so cheap but your covered in case you ever get any water in there especially if it's finished. The second is that if you do have a house in a flood plain you can get an elevation survey done. This can reduce the cost of the insurance possibly but thousands a dollars a year. You have to hire a survey company to preform the survey and then provide the information to your insurance carrier. If you are above the body of water, river or otherwise grade wise then chances are this will help you get the premium reduced. Lastly if your in a known floodplain as far as I know, your required to carry flood insurance. Hope that helps...... more