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.

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