Preparation & Eligibility
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Overview

Learn what SONYMA programs you are eligible to apply for on this page and find the tools you need to get started. This page will cover home buying by addressing important topics, such as Income Requirements, Purchase Price Limitations, Affordability, Target Areas, Homeownership Counseling and Homeownership Readiness.

Homeownership Readiness

Purchasing a home may be the largest investment you ever make. Before applying, you should consider the risks and benefits of homeownership.  Understanding what these are—and knowing what you need to have in place before applying—is important in deciding if homeownership is right for you.

 

Eligible applicants should have:

  • A two-year history of continuing, reliable, and verifiable income
  • A credit history that shows a willingness to make your payments on time
  • Sufficient income to cover the costs of homeownership while still meeting other debt obligations 
  • Enough money in the bank to pay your down payment and closing costs.

 

Benefits of Homeownership
  • Tax advantages. Itemizing annual mortgage interest and property taxes on both your federal and New York State income tax returns may result in tax savings.
  • Stable monthly costs. Your SONYMA monthly mortgage payment will remain the same for the life of your mortgage.
  • Equity. Every month that you make a mortgage payment, you are decreasing the amount you owe on your mortgage and moving one step closer to owning your home free and clear.  Building that home equity over the life of your loan will help you achieve other goals, like paying for college or saving for retirement.
  • Long term, owning is generally less expensive than renting. When you pay your mortgage, you are building equity every month and, eventually, you will own your home. With renting, you aren’t building equity or ownership interest in your home. 

 

Risks of Homeownership
  • Higher monthly payments. Some homeowners may end up paying more per month than renters, especially over the first few years. This is because homeowners have the additional expenses of property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and maintenance. However, these costs can be offset by an accumulation of equity if the home’s value appreciates.
  • Repairs and maintenance. You must maintain and keep up your home and property, which includes things like repairing and replacing appliances and mowing your lawn.
  • Decreased mobility. Being a homeowner makes it much more difficult to “pick up and move” based on changing circumstances. Selling a home takes time, effort, and proper planning. If you anticipate changing locations within the next year or two, then consider waiting to buy a home until you are more settled.
  • Decreased value. A home can lose value for many reasons—economic recession, poor upkeep, or an overall drop in neighborhood prices. It is important to know that if you sell your home for less than you owe, you will still be required to repay the full mortgage.

 

For additional support, consider talking to a homeownership counselor from one of our non-profit partners.

Homeownership Counseling

There’s a lot to consider when buying a home, and the decisions you make now will have a big impact on your future success as a homeowner. Nonprofit housing counselors provide the support you need to make informed decisions and set yourself up for success in homeownership! 

 

With a homeownership counselor on your side, you can:

  • Learn what common mistakes to avoid in the homebuying process
  • Save money by learning about special mortgage programs, grants, and down payment assistance 
  • Learn about the other professionals you’ll need to engage in the purchase process
  • Get a realistic idea about the true costs of owning a home 
  • Employ proven strategies for saving money for down payments, closing costs, and future home improvements
  • Find out how to address credit problems and strengthen your credit score
  • Receive unbiased guidance on what mortgage programs are best suited for your circumstances
  • Hear from other homebuyers and learn from their experiences
  • Make better, more informed decisions 

 

Visit the HomeSmartNY website to find a housing counselor near you.

How Much Can You Afford?

Getting a better idea of what you can afford and how much it will cost each month helps determine if the time is right for you to buy a home.

 

Mortgage Affordability Calculator

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. Down payments of less than 3% apply ONLY to the Habitat for Humanity program. Applicants must contribute 1% of their own funds into the transaction. Loans with less than 20% down will require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).
     
  2. Only include these costs if you have 10 or more payments remaining.
     
  3. This is only an estimate. A final determination of your eligibility can only be made upon submission of a mortgage loan application to a participating lender and with the approval of your loan application by SONYMA.
     
  4. This assumes that you only make a minimum down payment. If you put more toward your down payment, this amount can be higher.

Income & Purchase Price Limitations

SONYMA programs are designed to help people who are at or below certain income levels. These requirements will be different depending on the property’s location and the program you choose.

Your purchase price limitations will be different depending on the program you choose, the location you select, and the property type you intend to buy. To find out more, simply select the program that interests you and locate the region where your potential home is located.

  • Low Interest Rate Program Pricing Limitations by Region

  • Achieving the Dream Income and Pricing Limitation by Region

Target Areas

Purchasing a home in a federally designated Target Area comes with added incentives and benefits that ease certain SONYMA program requirements.

 

Benefits of purchasing in Target Areas with SONYMA:

  • You do not have to be a first-time homebuyer 1
  • Household income requirements are broader, so you can still qualify even with a higher income
  • Purchase price limits are higher, so you can ultimately afford more home
  • You can purchase a two-family home that is newly constructed or less than 5 years old

 

Target Area Look Up Tool

 

To find out if the home you are interested in is within a federally designated Target Area, you will need the “Census tract” and “block group” information for the property. To find this information, please download these helpful instructions and then go to the U.S. Census Bureau website.

 

You may also call the SONYMA Information Center at 800-382-HOME with the exact street address, city or town, and ZIP code to find out if a certain property is within a target area.

 

[Footnote]

If you are not a first-time homebuyer, you must sell your existing home. You will not be eligible if you currently own and intend to retain ownership of a vacation or investment home.

Condos and Coops

SONYMA allows qualified borrowers to purchase individual condominiums or cooperative if they meet the purchase requirements outlined below. 

 

Condominium Requirements
  • Must be located in a building with 10 or more units
  • More than half of the units must be already sold (40%+ if you are financing 90% or less of the property value or if the property is in a New York City Target Area)
  • 70%+ of sold units must be owner occupied (this excludes sponsor held units) 
  • The property must be managed by a professional management company with prior condo experience 
  • May require additional approval by SONYMA and its mortgage pool insurer

 

Cooperative Requirements
  • Maximum financing of up to 95% of the value of the property; applicants must make a minimum cash contribution of 3% 
  • Must be located in a building with 10 or more units
  • More than half of units must be already sold (40%+ if you are financing 90% or less of the property value or if the property is in a New York City Target Area)
  • 70%+ of sold units must be owner occupied (this excludes sponsor held units) 
  • Any underlying mortgage must have a remaining term of at least three years
  • May not be a recent conversion project with an eviction plan; however, projects with eviction plans are eligible for SONYMA financing
  • When determining if a home qualifies under SONYMA's purchase price limits, the proportionate share (a percent) of the cooperative project's underlying mortgage must be added to the purchase price of the unit being purchased. The combination of the unit sales price and the percentage share of the underlying mortgage cannot exceed SONYMA's purchase price limit (View this PDF for the purchase price limits in your area)
  • May not be a limited equity cooperative project. Such projects, including Mitchell-Lama projects, are not eligible for SONYMA financing
  • Must be managed by a professional management company experienced in managing cooperative projects
  • May require additional approval by SONYMA and its mortgage pool insurer
  • Cooperatives are not eligible under the Remodel New York Program.

 

Project Set-Aside (PSA): Getting a Project Set-Aside (PSA) approval enables potential buyers to know up front whether the property would be eligible for SONYMA financing. Under the Project Set‐Aside (PSA) program, SONYMA works with condominium or cooperatives to reserve as much as 50% of the units in a project for eligible SONYMA borrowers. For a list of participating properties, Download the pdf 

 

Questionnaires

All SONYMA loan applications for condominiums or cooperatives require the submission of a questionnaire. To see a sample questionnaire, please view our Condo Questionnaire Form here. SONYMA does not need this exact form as long as the questionnaire you provide us answers all of the questions included.

 

Special Requirements for New York City

SONYMA encourages New York City residents to purchase condos in newly constructed developments that have run into difficulty selling all their inventory. 

 

Requirements
  • The property in question must be in New York City.
  • You do not have to be a first-time homebuyer if a condo is located in a Federally designated Target Area.
  • SONYMA has a reduced presale requirement for condos in Target Areas, meaning only 40% of units must be sold for an individual condo to be eligible .
  • SONYMA will provide private mortgage insurance (PMI) for borrowers whose down payments are less than 20%.

 

For more information about using a SONYMA mortgage to purchase a condo or co-op, call 1-800-382-4663.