Friday, August 28, 2009

Clock Running Down on First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

According to a news report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the clock running down on the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and less than four months to go, builders are urging qualified prospective buyers to start the sales process long before the Nov. 30 deadline.

Faulty appraisals that have been using foreclosed properties as comparables for new homes have been slowing down the sales process in many instances, builders warn, creating hiccups in the financing stage that can often push the closing date much later than originally expected.

First-time buyers should also anticipate tighter lending standards that generally don't allow 100% financing, making buyers responsible for coming up with enough money prior to their purchase to meet required downpayment and closing costs.

For these two reasons alone, young families considering becoming home owners should be advised to start the process long before they put a bid on a new home. As part of that effort, builders can provide key educational information on the home buying process - including financing and closing - that their customers need to ensure that they occupy their new home in time to claim the tax credit.

Assistance on Upfront Costs Available in 16 States

For home buyers who need assistance with downpayment and closing costs, some state housing finance agencies are able to provide a short-term loan based on the home buyer's qualification for the federal tax credit.

Sixteen state housing finance agencies - in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia - are participating in loan programs to help facilitate home sales for first-time home buyers in their area.

Each state is different and qualifications and restrictions vary among the programs.

Home buyers should be warned, however, that there are organizations or individuals who are providing this service who are not legally permitted to do so. If the organization is a unit of state government, such as a state housing finance agency, it is safe to say that it is reputable. Otherwise, a home buyer should check with their local Better Business Bureau or through a state or local government's department of consumer affairs to ensure that the program they are working with is legitimate.

Remind Buyers of Requirements, Special Circumstances

Although the tax credit has three requirements listed for home buyers to qualify - status as a first-time home buyer, timeframe in which the home must be purchased and income limits - it is sometimes not that simple. Specific situations - such as those involving the sale of a home between related individuals or prior ownership of a mobile home as a primary residence - may result in a buyer's disqualification from claiming the credit.

In a statement released last week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned taxpayers to beware of first-time home buyer tax credit fraud. Home buyers who may be unsure of their status on claiming the tax credit should seek professional advice from a certified public accountant or an enrolled agent licensed by the federal government.

Home buyers who may need additional information can find answers to frequently asked questions about the tax credit at

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