Your question is great - I agree. Find an agent who is familiar with the renovation process - knows how to properly make an offer, and has the ability to protect your interests throughout the transaction.
I would have a few follow-up questions to properly direct you. Please reach out to me if you still are in need of assistance.
Your agent does need to have an idea about which homes will pass an FHA appraisal so you don't end up under contract on a home that will only go conventional or with an FHA 203K loan. The USDA program requires the appraisal to be done by an FHA approved appraiser to FHA and HUD standards so you'll have the same issue.
Most listings will say cash or conventional financing only if the home will not pass an FHA,VA or USDA appraisal.
It sounds like you may need to change your search parameters up a little bit so you're not targeting foreclosures, short sales or other homes that need work. For example, if your price point is too low, chances are the only thing your agent can find in your target price range are homes that need work.
With the USDA mortgage, you should be able to up your price range since the rates are low (3.5% with 1%) and the monthly mortgage insurance is substantially lower than an FHA loan which means more money can go towards the principle and interest. For example: The monthly MI on an FHA loan of $200,000 is going run you $208.33 per month but on a USDA mortgage it's only going to run you $50. That means you could have an extra $158 going towards your P&I payment which equals an extra $25,000 on your purchase price for the same monthly paymemt
You need both a good agent and a good lender. The lender will help you through the loan questions and requirements. It's not difficult to go to the usda site and type in addresses of homes that qualify for that program. Be prepared for a longer processing time with usda and fha203k. Your agent will need to know that the closing date cannot be scheduled too early. Your agent will likely be the one meeting you at the house with contractors on a 203k to go over estimates and helping to get the paperwork to the lender to get that contractor approved. The lender does a lot of things behind the scenes but having an agent that has done them before is very helpful. I would select an agent that is familiar with both programs and have them help you find an lender who also is OR find a lender who knows them and have them connect you with an agent that has teamed up with them with past successful transactions.
I don't understand your entire question.
You don't need an agent who knows those programs you need a good lender who knows those programs. A good Realtor will turn you over to a trusted lending partner so the answers are correct and up to date. No knock on Realtors, I don't know how to list and market a home. Sorry if my answer sounded rude I just don't want you to put the Realtor in a bad position and possibly give you the wrong answer. I am licensed in all 50 states and can help you with FHA loans, grant programs etc. USDA is not my specialty but I know the basics of the program. 203k loans we do offer but again not what I do, I would turn you over to a 203k specialist. If you talk USDA or 203k loans with any lender try and get them to answer how often they do those types of loans. Especially the 203k loans. They are very different and most loan officers don't work with them. Hope this was helpful and if I can assist or provide a referral I would be happy to do so.
I attached the link for USDA eligible homes. http://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/eligibility/welcomeAction.do
1st Mariner Mortgage
I am way out of your area as I am in Maryland. However if you have specific question?
USDA loans are not available in all areas of the country and I am not sure if they are in your area. A good lender should be able to answer that question but it is typical to rural areas and is generally referred to as a USDA Rural Housing loan, It is a government program geared toward first time home buyers and offering 0% down. One of the only programs currently available with no money down.
FHA has a great program for 3.5% down, normally we can contract for seller assistance toward the buyers closing costs but in essence the buyer is simply rolling those costs into their loan.
FHA 203K is a renovation loan program geared toward the purchase of a home in need of extensive renovation. It is available for purchase and for refinancing but special circumstances apply in both cases. You will want to be sure you are with a lender that really understands this program. It involves an appraisal at current property condition and an estimated appraisal after renovations are completed. Hard estimates are required form licensed contractors and the bank pays the contractors directly after inspections are completed by an FHA 203K approved inspector. It is a process but a good deal for the right situation.
Best of luck and I hope you find the agent you are looking for. If you relocate to Maryland keep me in mind