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In November 2009 President Obama has signed the extension of the first time home buyers $8,000 tax rebate. President Obama also has signed an expansion of the original plan. The expansion provides a $6,500 tax rebate for qualified buyers who already own their own home. Both will be in effect until April 30, 2010. The provisions are providing a tremendous opportunity for homeowners as a huge incentive for buying a home. The new extension and expansion has created a sense of urgency for those buying homes. According to Mark Sauers, Assistant Vice President with Sun Trust Mortgage

“The only thing i would say is that if history teaches us any lessons we should move forward sooner rather than later. April 30 will be here before we know it. I really do not expect any further extensions beyond this”

The following guide will simplify the qualification process for homeowners looking to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit.

    $6,500 Tax Credit for trade-up buyers who already own their own home:

1. Income qualifications: Single taxpayer incomes must not exceed $125,000 and married couples income can not exceed $225,000

2. Purchase date qualifications: Purchase must be after November 6, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010.

3. Ownership qualification: Buyers must have lived in their previous home for five consecutive out of the past eight years. The purchase price of the new home can not exceed $800,000 and the new home must be a personal residence (non investment or non-owner occupied).

The total tax rebate is equal to 10% of the purchase price, up to a total of $6,500 and does not need to be repaid back to the Government.

    $8,000 First time home buyer tax credit:

1. Income qualification: Single tax payer income can not exceed $125,000 and couples filing jointly can not exceed $225,000

2. Purchase date qualification: All sales that occur between January 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010

3. Buyer qualification: Anyone who has not owned their own home during the previous three years prior to current purchase

The tax rebate is available for 10% of the purchase price of the home with a maximum of $8,000 and can not be used on a home that is over $800,000. Really now, how many first time home buyers can afford an $800,000 home?

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Nearly 1.5 Million people have taken advantage of the $8,000 tax rebate since it’s conception in January 2009. The tax credit has been available to all first time home buyers. The first time home buyer is defined as anyone who has now owned their own home for three consecutive years. Oh, one more criteria for eligibility… It must be for your primary residence which is unfortunate for investors. The credit is in the form of a tax rebate for 10% of the purchase price of the home, up to a total of $8,000. One of the great benefits of the tax rebate is that is FULLY refundable to the buyer. For instance if the first time home buyer owed no taxes on their taxes, then the first time home buyer can ammend their tax return and capture the full $8,000.

The tax rebate has helped improve the national home sales. The current tax rebate is set to expire on November 30, 2009.  This means that the purchase must be fully closed and completed in order to qualify. It typically takes approximately 30 days to close on a home transaction with conventional bank financing. The point is that in order to be confident your purchase will qualify you should plan to be under contract to purchase your home by November 1, 2009. If you are trying to capture the $8,000 tax rebate and have not yet put your home under contract or you dont qualify for conventional financing then you need to consider finding an alternate approach. One alternate approach is to find seller financing. If the seller is providing the financing and you do not need to wait the typical 30 days for bank financing, then you can still close by December 1, 2009 without many challenges.

What about the possibility of extending the rebate past December 1, 2009?   There are currently several bills  in Congress that would allow the extension. Each of the bills in Congress provide alternate solutions toward the extension. Of course there is a lot of politics involved in completing the extension, from all poitical parties. Here is a brief summary of the extensions:

S1230:  Senator Johnny Isakson  introduced Senate Bill 1230 in June.  The Bill proposes a tax credit up to $15,000 that can be split over 2 year for everyone who purchases a home for their personal residence.

HR 2619:    This one  proposes to extend the existing $8,000 tax credit to July 1, 2010 and adds provisions for a tax credit of up to $3,000 for homeowners who refinance.  This would certainly create a ton of refinanes.  Is this part of the recent mortgage issue?  Many Americans seem to use their home equity as an ATM machine, pulling it out and spending it.  I guess that would potentially help spur the ecomony in the short term.

HR 2801 – Similar to S1230 but it extends benefits to January 1, 2011.

Several key politicians are publicly making comments about getting the extension approved by early November.  Those making positive comments include Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.  They are hoping to extend the rebate along with unemployment benefits at the same time. 

One thing for sure is our current Government is committed to spending an unlimited amount to try and stimulate our ecomony.  Our Leaders appear to be committed to short term gains at the expense of future generations.  That said, extending the first time home buyer credit will certainly help encourage American’s to own their own home. 

What do you think?  Should the first time home buyers credit be extended?  Why or Why Not?  What are the short term benefits and long liabilities associated with this extension?  I would like to hear your viewpoints so please leave some comments.

Jim Ingersoll

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