The State of New York Mortgage Agency offers special programs to qualified first-time home buyers who want to purchase property in-state. If you haven’t owned a primary residence during the past three years, you’re considered a first-time home buyer.
The first-time buyer requirement is waived if you are a U.S. military veteran applying to purchase a home or you’re buying a home in a federally designated “target area” — an economically disadvantaged neighborhood where homeownership may provide a boost to the local quality of life.
SONYMA highlights and eligibility requirements
- There is no credit score requirement for mortgage programs
- Nontraditional credit is considered for some programs
- Mortgage insurance is required on loan-to-value >80%
- Down payment assistance is offered (See Down Payment Assistance Loans below)
- Borrowers must have a minimum of three lines of credit that have been active for at least 18 of the past 24 months — and paid on time
- Overall debt-to-income ratio of 45% or less
- Must meet county limits on household income and purchase price
- Maximum LTV of 97% for single-family homes
- Two-year employment history
- Borrower contribution of at least 1% on LTV >95%
- Attend a home buyer education course
New York State Home Buyer Assistance Programs
Achieving the Dream
The Achieving the Dream program is offered to lower-income, first-time home buyer applicants. Borrowers will receive reduced interest rates and a lower down payment requirement on a 30-year loan. The mortgage can finance the purchase and renovation of a one- or two-unit home, and there are also incentives for buyers of energy-efficient, new-construction homes.
Conventional Plus Program
This loan wraps a lot of features into one program. It’s the Swiss army knife of mortgage assistance: Take a 30-year loan for purchase or refinance, throw in down payment assistance, and offer it to first-time home buyers or existing homeowners. And that’s just the start.
The Conventional Plus Program can use the down payment assistance for closing costs — and that can help a borrower avoid mortgage insurance.
All that, and relaxed loan approval standards.
Low Interest Rate Program
Low-to-moderate-income home buyers get a favorable interest rate in SONYMA’s Low Interest Rate Program — though published rates for the Achieving the Dream Program are even lower.
Down Payment Assistance Loans
A down payment assistance loan can be combined with any SONYMA mortgage program. It’s structured as a second mortgage, but there are no monthly payments required, and interest is not charged. In fact, the loans are forgiven after 10 years if borrowers maintain their primary SONYMA financing, and continue living in the home.
Minimum down payment assistance loans are $1,000; the maximum is $3,000 or 3% of the home’s purchase price — whichever is higher, up to a $15,000 limit. And as mentioned above, a down payment assistance loan may be used for closing costs.
Your interest rate on a SONYMA loan may be a little higher with a down payment assistance loan, though some programs are excluded from the bump in rate.
Some lenders may not offer down payment assistance loans.
Homes for Veterans Program
This program aims to help veterans and active-duty U.S. military personnel buy a home, even if it’s not their first. The loans offer favorable terms, and down payment assistance is available.
Military-affiliated borrowers don’t have to meet first-time buyer requirements and generally get a break on interest rates.
RemodelNY is a purchase and renovation mortgage rolled into one. Whether you have your eye on a fixer-upper or a home that simply needs a few upgrades, this SONYMA 30-year loan may be just what you need to enhance that home’s curb — and family — appeal.
Energy Star Labeled Homes Program
If you’re buying new construction or building a home, this program allows you to install energy-efficient upgrades. This can include windows, insulation, appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling systems.
FHA Plus Program
Available for new home buyers or existing homeowners, the FHA Plus Program incorporates SONYMA’s down payment assistance with an FHA-backed mortgage. This can help you reduce the mortgage insurance premium you pay on an FHA loan.
Graduate to Homeownership Program
An innovative program geared to recent college graduates, SONYMA provides down payment assistance, favorable interest-rate loans and homebuying education to prospective borrowers.
A unique qualifier: Applicants must be looking to buy their first home in specified New York communities slated for downtown revitalization. The cities include Elmira, Geneva, Glens Falls, Jamestown, Middletown, Oneonta, Oswego and Plattsburgh.
Neighborhood Revitalization Program
A major priority for New York state’s home buyer initiatives is to improve neighborhoods and revitalize communities. The Neighborhood Revitalization Program offers cash and financing assistance for prospective homeowners to buy and renovate vacant homes.
The properties can include one- to four-family homes, and county purchase price limits do not apply. There are eligible communities in Buffalo, the Bronx, Long Island, Queens and Staten Island, among others.
Your next step
Remember, the lender you work with may have additional borrower requirements than those stated in any SONYMA assistance program. They may include credit score minimums or other credit qualifications. So, dig into the programs you’re interested in, learn all you can, then talk to a few lenders about the possibilities.
For full details on any SONYMA program, visit the SONYMA website.
To find participating lenders, search the SONYMA lender list.
National first-time home buyer programs to consider
If you find out that you don’t qualify for SONYMA assistance programs, or are interested in considering other possibilities, there are nationally available options for low down-payment home loans catering to first-time buyers.
FHA loans have helped millions of first-time buyers get into a home. FHA loans offer down payments as low as 3.5% and have more lenient underwriting standards, including lower credit scores.
VA loans are available to military veterans and active-duty service members and certain spouses. Backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, these loans usually require no down payment and offer appealing mortgage terms.
USDA mortgages help rural area borrowers with zero-down home loans. Though the name may seem to imply otherwise, you don’t have to be a farmer or rancher to qualify.
Conventional loans enabled by the government-sponsored companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might be your ticket to homeownership, with down payments as low as 3%.
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