Wednesday, May 13, 2009

$8,000 Tax Credit, Could Be Used as Down Payment

First-time homebuyers will soon have another option if they want to use their $8,000 tax credit toward a downpayment. On the tails of a Florida-created program that Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign into law, the federal government announced its own downpayment assistance program at the National Association of Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo taking place this week in Washington, D.C.

While the tax credit applies to “first-time homebuyers,” the term is misleading. In general, anyone who hasn’t owned a home for the past three years is considered a first-timer under the program. Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), hopes to have additional details available within a few days, though it’s still unclear how soon homebuyers can apply for the credit.

Donovan said that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) would allow its lenders to credit homeowners up to $8,000. He made the announcement to several thousand Realtors yesterday at a special daylong session called, The Real Estate Summit: Advancing the U.S. Economy.

“We all want to enable FHA consumers to access the homebuyer tax credit funds when they close on their home loans, so that the cash can be used as a downpayment,” Donovan said. According to Donovan, FHA approved lenders will be permitted to “monetize” the tax credit by using short-term bridge loans. Donovan also said that more will be done, and the Obama administration plans to further stabilize the housing market.

“I do think we have some early signs that the market overall is stabilizing,” said Donovan. “Since January, we’ve seen both home sales moving up and down around a relatively stable number, and we are seeing the first signs that the rapid decline in home prices is starting to abate.”