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Sonyma will help if income under $146,420, home less than $637,640.

In sharp contrast to all the mortgages out there with stiff underwriting guidelines, New York's Low Interest Rate mortgages have no minimum credit score. Borrowers can also qualify for a Sonyma mortgage if their total monthly debt payments reach 45 percent of their monthly income -- and sometimes more. That's about 5 percent higher than the amount allowed by conventional lenders, and higher than the threshold recommended by many financial counselors.

Still, Mr. Leocata maintains that borrowers default on these loans less frequently than those with conventional mortgages. Borrowers must pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums. For a 3 percent down payment, the monthly premium is 0.8 percent of the loan amount; for 5 percent, it's 0.67 percent; and for 10 percent, 0.42 percent.

Borrowers must also fall within the household income limits -- $107,520 in Manhattan, $142,520 in Long Island and $146,420 in Westchester -- and the purchase price cannot exceed $637,640.

George Leocata, a senior vice president at Sonyma, says demand for the Low Interest Rate Program has been the highest in 12 years, which is hardly surprising given the difficulty in qualifying for conventional loans in recent months.

Thanks to an infusion of federal support late last year through the economic stimulus package, the State of New York Mortgage Agency, or Sonyma, is now offering 30-year affordable-housing loans at 4.75 percent, down from an average rate of 5.25 to 5.75 percent last year and well below the 5 percent or so being offered by mainstream lenders to their best customers.

Help for First-Time Buyers
Published: March 3, 2010
The State of New York Mortgage Agency, or Sonyma, is offering 30-year affordable-housing loans at 4.75 percent.


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