Saturday, May 30, 2009

Available New Home Purchase Tax Credit Funds Dwindle

In March the California State Legislature passed a law establishing a personal income tax credit for purchasers of a qualifying principal residence. The tax credit is capped at the lesser of $10,000 or 5 percent of the purchase price for the purchase of a principal residence that has never been occupied between March 1, 2009 and March 1, 2010.

Over the past two months homebuyers have reserved over $65 million in tax credits, with only $35 million in available credits remaining, according to the California Franchise Tax Board. It is important for buyers to be aware that the seller must file paperwork with the state within seven days of the sale for the buyer to qualify for the credit.

The credit provides in equal amounts ($3,333 for the $10,000 credit) over the three successive taxable years beginning with the year in which the purchase is made.

Qualifying residences must never have been occupied and must be eligible after purchase for the Homeowner's Property Tax Exemption. The taxpayer must live in the home as his principal residence for at least two years, or be subject to payback for any tax credits received.

Unlike the federal tax credit, the state has limited the total amount of credits that may be claimed to $100 million. Because of this provision buyers must make a tax credit reservation, and credits will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) is accepting applications (via form 3528-A) for allocation (reservations) of credit by fax only (916-845-9754). For more information about the credit reservations, applicable forms and the number of credits still available, please see this California Franchise Tax Board Web page.

President Signs Law to Limit Foreclosures

President Barack Obama last week signed into law S. 896, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, an NAR-supported bill that includes provisions to limit foreclosures and keep families in their homes. The bill seeks to help home owners by providing a safe harbor for mortgage servicers who make a good-faith effort to modify troubled loans, and it makes changes to increase the use of the Hope for Homeowners program, which encourages replacement of troubled loans with safe FHA-backed financing. The bill also strengthens oversight of FHA-approved lenders and it establishes a task force to investigate mortgage foreclosure fraud.

The new law loosens the Hope for Homeowners (H4H) program requirements to help homeowners refinance out of their troubled mortgages and into more affordable, fixed-rate FHA-insured loans. If refinance proceeds are insufficient to pay off existing liens, the existing lien holders must voluntarily agree to a short payoff, but a new inducement is an opportunity for them to share in the homeowner's equity. Other changes to the H4H program include monetary incentives for both the participating servicers of the existing loans and originators of the FHA refinance. Millionaire borrowers (with net worth over $1 million) are now excluded from the program.

Effective immediately, an REO lender or buyer who acquires title through a foreclosure sale must give at least a 90-day notice to terminate a bona fide tenant. The following shall be considered bona fide tenants:

• the mortgagor or the child, spouse, or parent of the mortgagor under the contract is not the tenant;
• the lease or tenancy was the result of an arms-length transaction; and
• the lease or tenancy requires the receipt of rent that is not substantially less than fair market rent for the property or the unit's rent is reduced or subsidized due to a federal, state, or local subsidy.

A 90-day notice to terminate is sufficient for a month-to-month tenant or if a new owner will occupy the property as a primary residence at the end of the 90 days. Otherwise, a tenant with a one year or other fixed-term lease with a remaining lease term exceeding 90 days can stay in the premises until the remaining lease term ends. This new 90-day notice requirement applies to foreclosures of a federally-related mortgage loan or residential real property, except for properties under rent control, rent-subsidized programs (such as Section 8), or other state laws that provide additional protections for tenants. This law expires on December 31, 2012.

Other provisions of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act include a 4-year extension of the $250,000 FDIC deposit insurance to December 31, 2013, protection for loan servicers who establish qualified loss mitigation plans from liability for an alleged breach of duty to maximize mortgage values for their investors, $130 million for foreclosure prevention counseling and education, and $2.2 billion to strengthen homeless programs.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Market Update in May

In response to my May 6th post below:

No wonder since the last 30 days we are seeing the foreclosed properties (e.g. REO= Real estate owned by bank) in Silicon Valley and the starter properties have received multiple and multiple offers. I have witnessed the record of 75 offers in Milpitas! I believe the bottom of the Silicon Valley housing market has been well supported and we might see a momentous increase in the property values soon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

$$ for Homebuyers

Final Score: $8,000 for Homebuyers

First-time purchasers get a tax credit windfall if they buy before December.

Les Christie, staff writer

There's a nice windfall for some homebuyers in the economic stimulus bill. First-time buyers can claim a credit worth $8,000 - or 10% of the home's value, whichever is less - on their 2008 or 2009 taxes.

A big plus is that the credit is refundable, meaning tax filers see a refund of the full $8,000 even if their total tax bill - the amount of withholding they paid during the year plus anything extra they had to pony up when they filed their returns - was less than that amount. But there has been a lot of confusion over this provision. Adam Billings of Knoxville, Tenn. wrote to asking:

“I will qualify as a first-time home buyer, and I am currently set to get a small tax refund for 2008. Does that mean if I purchased now that I would get an extra $8,000 added on top of my current refund?”

The short answer? Yes, Billings would get back the $8,000 plus what he'd overpaid. The long answer? It depends. Here are three scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your final tax liability is normally $6,000. You've had taxes withheld from every paycheck and at the end of the year you've paid Uncle Sam $6,000. Since you've already paid him all you owe, you get the entire $8,000 tax credit as a refund check.

Scenario 2: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've overpaid by $1,000 through your payroll withholding. Normally you would get a $1,000 refund check. In this scenario, you get $9,000, the $8,000 credit plus the $1,000 you overpaid.

Scenario 3: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've underpaid through your payroll withholding by $1,000. Normally, you would have to write the IRS a $1,000 check. This time, the first $1,000 of the tax credit pays your bill, and you get the remaining $7,000 as a refund.

To qualify for the credit, the purchase must be made between Jan. 1, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2009. Buyers may not have owned a home for the past three years to qualify as “first time” buyer. They must also live in the house for at least three years, or they will be obligated to pay back the credit.

Additionally, there are income restrictions: To qualify, buyers must make less than $75,000 for singles or $150,000 for couples. (Higher-income buyers may receive a partial credit.)

Applying for the credit will be easy - or at least as easy as doing your income taxes. Just claim it on your return. No other forms or papers have to be filed. Taxpayers who have already completed their returns can file amended returns for 2008 to claim the credit.

Lukewarm reception

The housing industry is somewhat pleased with the result because the stimulus plan improves on the current $7,500 tax credit, which was passed in July and was more of a low-interest loan than an actual credit. But the industry was also disappointed that Congress did not go even further and adopt the Senate's proposal of a $15,000 non-refundable credit for all homebuyers.

“[The Senate version] would have done a lot more to turn around the housing market,” said Bernard Markstein, an economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). “We have a lot of reports of people who would be coming off the fence because of it.”

Even so, the $8,000 credit will bring an additional 300,000 new homebuyers into the market, according to estimates by Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

The credit could also create a domino effect, he said, because each first-time homebuyer sale will lead to two more trade-up transactions down the line. “I think there are many homeowners who would be trading-up but they have had no buyers for their own homes,” Yun said.

Who won't benefit, according to Mark Goldman, a real estate lecturer at San Diego State University, are those first-time homebuyers struggling to come up with down payments. The credit does not help get them over that hurdle - they still have to close the sale before claiming the bonus.

One state, Missouri, is trying to get around that problem by creating a short-term loan on the tax credit of up to $6,750. The state would loan borrowers the money so they could use it at closing as part of the down payment. Then, when the buyers receive their tax credit from the IRS, they pay back the state. Other states may follow with similar programs, according to NAHB's Dietz.

Many may look at the tax credit as a discount on the home price, according to Yun. A $100,000 purchase effectively becomes a $92,000 one. That can reassure buyers apprehensive about purchasing and then watching prices continue falling, he added.

And it provides a nice nest egg for the often-difficult early years of homeownership, when unexpected repairs and expenses often crop up. Recipients could also use the money to buy new stuff for their home - a lawnmower, a rug, a sofa - and, in that way, help stimulate the economy.

Reprint courtesy of