New York is one of the costliest states in which to buy a residence in the U.S., driven by high prices downstate in New York City, Westchester and Long Island. The state of New York has programs to address affordability challenges for homebuyers, including first-time homebuyers. Here’s an overview.

New York State first-time homebuyer loan programs

The State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) offers several types of assistance programs for first-time New York state homebuyers — everyone from college grads to DIYers who need support restoring a home can find help. SONYMA defines first-time homebuyers as those who haven’t owned a primary residence in three years and who don’t currently own second homes here or abroad.

SONYMA Conventional Plus

SONYMA’s Conventional Plus Program is practically a one-stop shop for mortgage options. It’s designed for borrowers who need help qualifying for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage as well as those who need down payment assistance. Additionally, existing homeowners can use this program to refinance their house.

Eligible borrowers could get a lower mortgage interest rate and no loan-level price adjustments. Loan-level price adjustments are extra fees lenders include on mortgages to offset risk factors like a low credit score and loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Conventional Plus is available for first-time homebuyers and previous homeowners.

SONYMA FHA Plus

Both first-time and previous homebuyers in New York can take advantage of FHA plus, which allows borrowers to combine down payment assistance with an FHA loan for a primary residence priced up to $647,200.

SONYMA Homes for Veterans

SONYMA can also help U.S. military veterans as well as military personnel buy a home through low-cost financing with the Homes for Veterans program. This program is open to active-duty service members, veterans and their spouses or co-borrowers, as well as members of the National Guard and reservists. There are no points or origination fees, but you must be able to make at least a 3 percent down payment (just 1 percent from your own contributions; you can use a gift or other assistance source for the remaining 2 percent).

SONYMA Achieving the Dream

For low-income first-time homebuyers, the Achieving the Dream program provides access to low-cost, low down-payment mortgage financing. Borrowers must meet certain credit, employment history, income and savings requirements to qualify. There is a 3 percent down payment requirement (with 1 percent of that required to be contributed by the borrower). Notably, this program comes with a 120-day rate-lock if you’re buying an existing home, or a 240-day lock for a home under construction.

SONYMA Remodel NY

If the idea of buying a fixer-upper is exciting to you, you’re in luck. Remodel NY provides financing to first-time homebuyers who purchase homes that need some TLC. Borrowers can receive financing for both the renovation and the purchase of the home.

Although you won’t be able to pay for luxury upgrades under this program, it does cover a wide range of repairs. These repairs include everything from structural reconstruction, updates that improve the home’s functionality and eliminating safety hazards to fixing in-ground pools and landscaping.

Program features:

  • Borrowers can get financing of up to 97 percent of the “after improved” appraised value or purchase price plus eligible repairs.
  • Financing includes $1,000 minimum eligible repairs with no maximum repair amount.

SONYMA Neighborhood Revitalization

The Neighborhood Revitalization program packs a big punch: Borrowers can apply for financing to buy or renovate a primary home in a designated area.  With this program, buyers can get up to $20,000 for renovation costs. There are credit, income and employment requirements to qualify.

SONYMA Graduate to Homeownership

Upstate New York college graduates can get help securing an affordable mortgage with their diploma thanks to the Graduate to Homeownership program. If you’re a first-time homebuyer in New York who graduated within the last 48 months with an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree and make under the maximum income allowance, you might be eligible for this program.

Buyers must also occupy the home they purchase with these funds, and the home must be in one of the following communities:

  • Capital Region (Albany, Glens Falls, Hudson)
  • Central New York (Auburn, Cortland, Fulton, Oswego)
  • Finger Lakes (Batavia, Geneva, Penn Yan)
  • Mid-Hudson (Kingston, Middletown, New Rochelle, Peekskill)
  • Mohawk Valley (Amsterdam, Oneonta, Rome)
  • North Country (Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, Watertown)
  • Southern Tier (Elmira, Watkins Glen)
  • Western New York (Jamestown, Lockport, Niagara Falls Bridge District, Olean)

New York down payment assistance

SONYMA Down Payment Assistance Loan (DPAL)

The DPAL program offers eligible borrowers down-payment assistance via a second mortgage, provided you use it in conjunction with a current SONYMA program. Borrowers can also use these funds to pay for any applicable mortgage insurance premiums. The minimum assistance given is $1,000; the maximum is 3 percent of the purchase price up to $15,000, or $3,000, whichever is higher.

DPAL borrowers pay no interest or monthly payments. The main attraction is that the loan is forgiven after 10 years if the borrower keeps SONYMA funding in place and lives in the home.

Local homebuyer assistance programs

Beyond the state’s offerings, there could be homebuying assistance available in the city or county you plan to live in. For example, in New York City, the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program provides eligible first-time homebuyers up to 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, up to $100,000, toward a down payment or closing costs.

Get started

If you’ve found a program that fits your needs, you could be on the path to homeownership. SONYMA doesn’t issue loans or make application decisions. However, it has vetted a list of approved lenders you can reach out to. Generally, lenders have their own borrowing requirements, and interest rates vary. Shop around with a few different companies to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

First-time homebuyer programs in nearby states

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