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First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, Falling Prices, and Government Lending Programs Make it a Good Time to Buy Real Estate

First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, Falling Prices, and Government Lending Programs Make it a Good Time to Buy Real Estate

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By Elaine VonCannon, ABR, SRES, Associate Broker, Notary, Team Leader, Property Manager, Award Winning Agent

This year, many first time homebuyers will enter the real estate market to buy a home. One of the main reasons for this is the phenomenal $8,000 tax credit available to first time homebuyers. If a homebuyer completes the purchase of a property between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009, he or she is eligible for this credit.

The U.S. government's definition of first time homebuyer has an expanded meaning, too. According to the National Association of Realtors, "A person is considered a first-time buyer if he/she has not had any ownership interest in a home in three years previous to the day of the 2009 purchase."

The $8,000 tax credit is applied to the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on a tax return. Single taxpayers must make under $75,000 and married filing jointly taxpayers must make under $150,000 to qualify for the tax credit. The first time home buyer tax credit is applied directly to tax liability, and if liability is less than a credit, a refund check is issued. The home purchased must be worth $80,000 to qualify for the full credit. If the property purchased is less than $80,000 the taxpayer will receive a 10% credit on purchase price.

A study of my own real estate market in 2008 which includes Richmond, Williamsburg, James City County, York County, Newport News, Hampton and Yorktown revealed that prices have fallen from 15-17% depending upon the location. This decline in pricing makes buying a home even more affordable for the first time homebuyer. Some homebuyers who purchase property this year could end up with equity in the home right away, depending upon how deeply the seller has discounted the property.

A popular way for homebuyers to try to save money is to locate foreclosed properties. I recommend that first time homebuyers avoid the purchase of foreclosed properties. Many of these properties need to be fixed or updated. The only exceptions to this would be if a homebuyer is in the building trades or has excellent resources in hand in which case he or she might want to consider foreclosures.

Short sales are also becoming more numerous. A first time homebuyer could potentially save a great deal of money by purchasing a short sale property. However, they must be patient. This means a first time homebuyer may have to wait from six to nine months for the banks' decision about the short sale. After waiting so long, some short sales will not even come through, and the buyer has to start all over again. Many people looking for their first homes do not have the time or the patience for short sales, either.

There are two great government lending programs in place now and both require good FICO scores. The first is the 3.5 % down Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan. Greg Caldwell, a Mortgage Banker with Old Virginia Mortgage, Inc. said, "The first time homebuyer may qualify for this loan with a credit score of 620 or more. The second is 100% financing -- still available on VA Loans." With many of our service men and women returning from Iraq this year, VA Loans could once again provide a great financing option for those who served our country.

First time homebuyers need to avoid a common pitfall in the home buying process. As they drive through a desirable neighborhood, often buyers will see a property they are interested in and telephone the listing agent to ask questions about it. Then the potential buyer will ask the listing agent to represent them. This is considered dual agency, which means the listing agent becomes the buyer's agent on that particular property, too.

It's not a sound idea to have the listing agent represent you on the purchase of your first home. More objectivity is lent to the buying process if the first time home buyer locates a buyer's agent on their own, and initiates the search (or telephone inquiry about the property) through their agent. A buyer's agent will have the purchaser's best interests at heart.

With all of the recent changes in tax laws, property pricing, and government assisted lending programs, the first time homebuyer should be enticed to purchase a home this year.