Thinking About Buying a Home in New York? Here's What Your Family Needs to Know

Photo courtesy of GR Affinity
Photo courtesy of GR Affinity

New York may have a reputation for being a city of renters, but the reality is that plenty of families are buying homes—and with mortgage rates low, purchasing a home can actually be more affordable than it seems. Of course, buying here can feel especially intimidating. Beyond the sticker shock and the condo versus coop versus house confusion, there things like loans and down payments to navigate. Unravelling all of it can really stand in the way of families believing that buying is on the table.

When we had questions about the home buying process, we connected with Brian Scott Cohen, a Senior Loan Officer at GR Affinity—and proud New York City dad—who's helped thousands of families become homeowners over the 17 years he's been in the mortgage industry. Brian helped us untangle our most pressing inquiries about buying a home in New York.

MP: Ok, so, let's get right to it. Should New Yorkers be renting or buying? How do you know which is better for your family?
Brian Scott Cohen: Really, this comes down to personal preference, but many families who think they can't buy an apartment or home actually can. You don't necessarily need a large traditional down payment. We have programs with low down payment options starting as low as 3% for qualifying borrowers, and many times the mortgage payments ends up being less than rent.

MP: Alright, and what is the New York real estate market like right now? Is it a seller's or buyer's market?
Brian Scott Cohen: Over the last 12 months, New York has shifted from a buyer's market to a seller's market—and that's where we are right now. We're seeing bidding wars, non-contingent contracts, and closings happening quickly after properties go to market.

MP: Can we go back to down payments? How much does a family really need to put down?
Brian Scott Cohen: This depends on the home price, the property, and who you may be competing against to get an offer accepted. As a lender, we have over 100 different loan programs—some with low down payment options.

MP: How do you find the best mortgage?
Brian Scott Cohen: I'm not so sure there's a best mortgage. It's really about finding the right mortgage for you. Each family's down payment, income, and credit are different. Each family has different goals for their home and a different idea of how long they may stay in the property. Ultimately, it's all about customization. That's where a smart loan officer should be able to help find the right match.

MP: Does it matter where you apply for your loan?
Brian Scott Cohen: As an industry veteran I can say this can definitely matter, especially in the NYC market. 50% of the loan process is the buyer being approved based on their financials, but deals can go sideways based on things like the status of the building. A prospective buyer should be asking a few basic questions to vet who they are working with and make sure they have the experience and knowledge to get their application through.

MP: What if my credit isn't perfect?
Brian Scott Cohen: Honestly, that could be fine. There are many loan programs that don't actually require perfect credit. The interest rates you see advertised online are usually based on a credit score of of 740 or higher credit. With a lower credit score, you may be able to get a loan, it's just that the rates may be a bit higher.

MP: What are the most common mistakes people make when buying a home?
Brian Scott Cohen: One thing I see over and over again is potential buyers wanting to lock in their interest before they have a contract to purchase—when the reality is that interest rates are only good for a certain time period. As a buyer, it's really important to understand the dates in your contract and when your closing might actually be. In New York, a standard contract is sometimes written as "on or about closing date," which means within 30 days of an estimated date listed in the contract. So, be prepared for the process to take up to 90 days or longer. And note that this is not because of the lender. This is because of coop board interviews, condo first right of refusals, surveys, and more. Locking in your rate too early can cost you money.

MP: What’s the key piece of advice you’d want to give a family buying their first home?
Brian Scott Cohen: You know, I'll give you a couple! Number one, start with a pre-approval to find out if and what you can buy. Number two, don't be afraid to have your credit checked by a lender throughout the process—just don't over check it. Number three, don't overthink the interest rate because you can never time the lowest. Instead, focus on the payment and trusting the loan officer getting you to the closing table. And number four, if you're reading this and you think you can't buy a home, that might not be the case. Don't hesitate to reach out so that we can discuss it further.

Thanks, Brian!

Visit GR Affinity to use their easy pre-approval tool and contact Brian to discuss your loan options.

Brian Scott Cohen NMLS ID: 410025 Guaranteed Rate Affinity NMLS 1598647 For licensing, go to 1800 W. Larchmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60613 Applicant subject to credit and underwriting approval. Not all applicants will be approved for financing. Receipt of application does not represent an approval for financing or interest rate guarantee. Restrictions may apply, contact GR Affinity for current rates and for more information. Operating in the state of New York as GR Affinity, LLC in lieu of the legal name Guaranteed Rate Affinity, LLC.

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