Think you can’t afford a home? 

There might be help

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 3/18/21

MONTICELLO, NY — If you’ve wanted to buy a home but didn’t think you could afford the upfront costs, help is out there. 

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, there will be …

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Think you can’t afford a home? 

There might be help

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — If you’ve wanted to buy a home but didn’t think you could afford the upfront costs, help is out there. 

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, there will be an online information session about a new county grant that helps first-time homebuyers with their down payment, closing costs and improvements. 

The grant is being administered by RUPCO, an Ulster County-based group that focuses on quality, affordable housing and community development. 

“We work broadly in housing,” says Kathy Germain, vice president of housing services for the agency. They’ve moved beyond Ulster in recent years. “There was such a need in neighboring counties.” 

Consider the average price of a home, plus interest and plus the down payment. That can seem insurmountable to a prospective new homeowner. The Federal Reserve found that six in 10 renters wanted to buy but couldn’t afford the down payment. Four in 10 said they couldn’t get a mortgage.

“The upfront barriers are huge,” Germain said, “especially for low-to-moderate family incomes. “That’s part of the reason we’re bringing this resource here.”

Because homeownership matters, even for—maybe especially for—those with low-to-medium incomes.

The benefits

“Homeownership is the number one wealth-building tool for families of all incomes,” Germain said. “Homeowners’ net worth is 40 times that of a renter.” 

That’s because “as you pay on the home, you gain equity.” It’s forced savings that you’ll recoup when you sell the house. And “there are tax benefits right now,” Germain said.

Another advantage is stability. “Stability for your family, you’re settled in a neighborhood” and stability in how much you pay. Principal and interest won’t change (assuming you get a fixed-rate mortgage), unlike rent. 

About the grant

It’s a county grant, said deputy planning commissioner and Land Bank head Jill Weyer, secured through New York state. RUPCO, with 15 years of experience with these programs, was chosen to administer it. 

The $25,000 can be used to cover your down payment, closing costs and any repairs that need to be made after purchase. You have to fall into income limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to qualify, and those go by household size. (A family of four can earn up to $60,400.)

It’s countywide, not just in the villages, Weyer said.

“It’s mainly meant for single-family homes,” said Germain, and the owner has to live in it. “The home must be your primary residence.” 

Hopefully, Germain and Weyer said, the grant will become annual or biannual, so it would continue to be available to new, first-time prospective homeowners as they move away from renting and into homeownership.

What else RUPCO can do

They’ll walk you through the process. They advise on what you’ll need and help with inspections. (Is there mold? Lead? Is the furnace safe to use?)

“The best resource we have is our knowledgeable staff,” Germain said. 

And even if you aren’t sure if you qualify, it can’t hurt to ask. 

To register for the Wednesday, March 24 session, call 845/331-9860 or email homeownershipcenter@rupco.org.

If you aren’t sure if your income qualifies, call Frank Robusto at RUPCO, 845/331-9860 ext. 303. 

The need for housing, by the numbers

43.3 percent: amount Sullivan home prices have increased since 2020’s final figures, according to the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

3.2 percent: average mortgage rate. 

20 percent: still the standard down payment. If you pay less upfront, you’ll have to buy mortgage insurance too.

Home inventories have shrunk from 15 months on the market to eight months, Germain said. 

The Land Bank is working on affordable housing, taking derelict houses and abandoned land and turning it into a saleable property. They will have three modular homes available soon for those with eligible incomes, two in Liberty and one in Monticello. 

For more resources, visit www.bit.ly/2Nkyznn

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