Understanding the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit… Before it is Too Late!

September 7, 2009

1.   Who is eligible to claim the tax credit?
If you are a first-time home buyer purchasing a new home or a resale-you are eligible for the tax credit.  The purchase must take place on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009 to qualify for the tax credit. As it applies to the tax credit, the purchase date is the date when the home closes and the title to the property transfers to the home owner.

2.   What is the definition of a first-time home buyer?
The tax credit law defines a “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. If you are married, both spouses cannot have owned a home.

For example, if you didn’t own a home but your spouse did, you do not qualify.  For unmarried purchasers, the credit amount can be given to any buyer who qualifies as a first-time buyer, for instance, if a parent jointly purchases a home with a son or daughter. If you owned a vacation home or rental property not used as a principal residence you are not disqualified as a first-time home buyer.

3.   How is the amount of the tax credit determined?
The tax credit is 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, however, there is a maximum $8,000 credit.

4.   Are there any income limits for claiming the tax credit?4.
The full tax credit amount is given to buyers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of less than $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. For taxpayers with MAGI of more than $95,000 (single) or $170,000 (married) the credit is reduced to zero.  Taxpayers between these figures are prorated accordingly.
  
5.   What is “modified adjusted gross income”?
Modified adjusted gross income or MAGI is defined by the IRS.   For most buyers this will be the figure at the bottom of the first page of form 1040 or 1040A.  For Form 1040 EZ this is reported on line 4 as of 2008.

6.   If my modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is above the limit, do I qualify for any tax credit?
Possibly. It depends on your income.

7.   Can you give me an example of how the partial tax credit is determined?
There is a $20,000 difference between those who are eligible for a full tax credit and those where the credit is reduced to zero.  If you take the amount you are over the limit by and divide it by the 20,000, this will give you the percentage that you are over the limit by.  Subtract that number from 100% and then multiply it times the $8,000.  That will give you your tax credit amount.

For example: A married couple has a modified adjusted gross income of $165,000. Their income exceeds $150,000 by $15,000. Dividing $15,000 by $20,000 yields 0.75.  This means they are over the limit by 75% and so are eligible for a tax credit of 25%.  Multiplying $8,000 by 0.25 shows that the buyer is eligible for a partial tax credit of $2,000.

Please remember that this is an example. You should always consult your tax advisor.

8.   How is this home buyer tax credit different from the tax credit that Congress enacted in July of 2008?
The most significant difference is that this tax credit does not have to be repaid.  This tax incentive is a true tax credit. But home buyers must use the residence as a principal residence for at least three years or face having to repay it. Certain exceptions apply.

9.   How do I claim the tax credit? Do I need to complete a form or application?
You claim the tax credit on your federal income tax return. Specifically, home buyers should complete IRS Form 5405 to determine their tax credit amount, and then claim this amount on Line 69 of their 1040 income tax return. No other applications or forms are required, and no pre-approval is necessary. However, you will want to be sure that you qualify for the credit under the income limits and first-time home buyer tests.

10.What types of homes will qualify for the tax credit?
Any home that will be used as a principal residence qualifies for the credit. This includes single-family detached homes, attached homes (i.e. townhomes and condominiums), manufactured homes (also known as mobile homes), modular homes and houseboats.  If it qualifies for the capital gains tax on a primary residence, it qualifies for this.

11.I read that the tax credit is “refundable.” What does that mean?
It means that the credit can be claimed even if the taxpayer has little or no federal income tax liability to offset.

For example, if you owe $6,000 in taxes and had $4,500 in taxes withheld for the year you still owe $1,500 in taxes.  You would receive a check from the government for $6,500.  ($8,000 – $1,500 = $6,500.)
Or perhaps more common would be that you have a tax liability of $6,000 and you had $7,500 withheld so you would be getting a refund of $1,500 before the credit – the credit gets added to your refund so you would get a refund of $9,500 ($1,500 + $8,000 = $9,500)
And you don’t have to have any tax liability in the year you claim the credit – but you do have to have income.

12.I purchased a home in early 2009 and have already filed to receive the $7,500 tax credit on my 2008 tax returns.How can I claim the new $8,000 tax credit instead?
You may file an amended 2008 tax return with a 1040X form. You should consult with a tax advisor to ensure you file this return properly.
 
13.Instead of buying a new home from a home builder, I hired a contractor to construct a home on a lot that I already own. Do I still qualify for the tax credit?
Yes. The “purchased” date is the date the owner first occupies the house.  The date of first occupancy must be on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.

In contrast, for newly-constructed homes bought from a home builder, eligibility for the tax credit isdetermined by the settlement date.

14.Can I claim the tax credit if I finance the purchase of my home under a mortgage revenue bond (MRB) program?
Yes. The tax credit can be combined with the MRB home buyer program. Note that first-time home buyers who purchased a home in 2008 may not claim the tax credit if they are participating in an MRB program.

15.I live in a district where I am already receiving a first time home buyer credit (Washington D.C.)   Can I claim both credits?
No. You can claim only one.

16.I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I claim the tax credit?
Consult your tax accountant.  If you are NOT a nonresident alien (as defined by the IRS), have not owned a principal residence in the past three years and meet the income limits you may be eligible to claim the tax credit for a qualified home purchase.

17.Is a tax credit the same as a tax deduction?
No. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what the taxpayer owes. That means that a taxpayer who owes $8,000 in income taxes and who receives an $8,000 tax credit would owe nothing to the IRS.

A tax deduction is subtracted from the amount of income that is taxed. Assuming the same $8,000 tax liability from above, a taxpayer is in the 33 percent tax bracket would have their liability reduced from $8,000 to $5,360. ($8,000 minus 33%).
So the tax CREDIT is much more helpful to the buyer

18.I bought a home in 2008. Do I qualify for this credit?
No, but you may qualify for another tax credit  if you bought  your first home between April 9, 2008 and January 1, 2009.
 
19.Is there any way for a home buyer to get the money before they file their 2009 tax return?
Yes. If you believe you will qualify for the tax credit you can reduce your withholding taxes on your paycheck by adjusting your withholding amount on your W-4 via your employer or through your quarterly estimated tax payment.  You can put this saved money aside to use as a downpayment.
 
IRS Publication 919 contains rules and guidelines for income tax withholding. Please note that if the qualified purchase does NOT occur, then you will be liable for repayment to the IRS of income tax and possible interest charges and penalties.  Consult your account prior to doing this.
 
20.If I’m qualified for the tax credit and buy a home in 2009, can I apply the tax credit against my 2008 tax return?
Yes. The law allows taxpayers the opportunity to treat qualified home purchases in 2009 as if the purchase occurred on December 31, 2008.

Taxpayers buying a home who wish to claim it on their 2008 tax return, but who have already submitted their 2008 return to the IRS, may file an amended 2008 return claiming the tax credit. You should consult with a tax professional to determine how to arrange this.
 
21.For a home purchase in 2009, Can I choose which year to claim the credit (2008 or 2009) to make sure I get the largest credit possible?
Yes.  You can choose to claim the credit in the tax year that will give you the greatest credit based upon your MAGI.  The purchase must take place in 2009.


Using First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

May 29, 2009

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
WASHINGTON, DC 20410-8000
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HOUSINGFEDERAL
HOUSING COMMISSIONER
www.hud.gov espanol.hud.gov

May 29, 2009
MORTGAGEE LETTER 2009-15

From: Brian D. Montgomery
Assistant Secretary for Housing-
Federal Housing Commissioner

TO: ALL APPROVED MORTGAGEES
SUBJECT: Using First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credits

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) provides for as much as an $8000 tax credit to qualified first-time homebuyers. FHA supports this important initiative to promote homeownership. This mortgagee letter provides:
• Basic information on the first-time homebuyer credit obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. Complete information on how the first time homebuyer tax credit works, including the eligibility requirements for the tax credit, the amount of the tax credit that a first-time homebuyer may be eligible to receive, and how a homebuyer may claim the tax credit is available on the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=204671,00.html?portlet7.
• Guidance on how FHA-approved mortgagees and FHA-approved nonprofit organizations as well as Federal, state, and local government agencies or instrumentalities may assist homebuyers that are eligible for the tax credit.

I. About the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Please check the IRS website to ensure you have up-to-date information. A brief overview of the tax credit from the IRS website and a copy of IRS Form 5405 (including instructions) are attached for reference. Pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 3727 and 26 U.S.C. 6402, a refund of the first-time homebuyer credit will be made by the IRS only to the taxpayer, not to a third party. In other words, any refund issued in response to a claim for this credit cannot be assigned by a taxpayer to a third party.

II. FHA Tax Credit Guidance
Secondary Financing Consistent with existing FHA policy, FHA will permit entities covered by Section 528 of the National Housing Act to use the current authority to offer tax credit advances with second liens in a
manner consistent with the requirements in 12 U.S.C. 1709(b)(9). Eligible government agencies and instrumentalities of government are described in handbook HUD-4155.1 5.C3 and 5.C4.

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Conditions:
• The tax credit advance, when combined with the FHA-insured first mortgage may not result in cash back to the borrower.
• The second lien may not exceed the total amount needed for the down payment, closing costs, and prepaid expenses.
• Secondary financing may be “soft” (silent) or require a monthly repayment.
• If payments are required, they must be included within the qualifying ratios and, when combined with the first mortgage, cannot exceed the borrower’s reasonable ability to pay.
• Payments must be deferred for at least 36 months to not be included in the qualifying ratios.
• If the tax credit advance loan has a short term for repayment, it must also provide that if the borrower fails to repay by the designated deadline, principal and interest payments begin automatically or the loan converts to a “soft” second.
• The secondary financing may not require a balloon payment before ten years.

Purchase of Tax Credit
FHA-approved mortgagees and FHA-approved nonprofit organizations as well as Federal, state, and local governmental agencies and instrumentalities thereof may purchase the tax credit anticipated by the homebuyer.

Conditions:
• The proceeds of the sale of the tax credit may not exceed the anticipated tax credit due the homebuyer based on the computations of form IRS 5405;
• The borrower must submit a signed certification that the tax credit is not subject to offset due to other indebtedness.
• A copy of the borrower’s tax refund and/or the IRS 5405 must be collected and retained in the FHA case binder.
• Any costs attendant to the purchase of the tax credit are to be nominal and discounting the anticipated credit to cover the costs and expenses of the transaction must be reasonable and disclosed to the homebuyer. In FHA’s view, fees and costs that total more than 2.5% of the anticipated credit are considered excessive. (Example: $6000 to be refunded, with all fees
and costs discounted, borrower should receive not less than $5850.00 for sale of tax credit.)
• Pursuant to 12 U.S.C. 1709(b)(9), the homebuyer’s downpayment required for eligibility for FHA insurance may not consist of any funds (including funds derived from a sale of the homebuyer tax credit) provided by the mortgagee, the seller, or any other person or entity that financially benefits from the transaction (or by any third party or entity that is reimbursed, directly or indirectly, by the financially benefiting person or entity).
Accordingly, the proceeds of the sale of the tax credit to FHA approved mortgagees, the seller, or any other person or entity that financially benefits from the transaction (or any third party or entity that is reimbursed, directly or indirectly, by the financing benefiting person or entity), may not be used to meet the 3.5% minimum downpayment, but may be used as additional downpayment, buying down of interest rate, or other closing costs.

Due Diligence
FHA expects that entities purchasing tax credit assets will employ appropriate due diligence measures including, but not limited to:

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• Require the homebuyer to draft and provide the IRS form 5405 “First-Time Homebuyer Credit.”
• Contact the borrower’s employer and review pay stubs to confirm there are no outstanding garnishments.
• Review the homebuyer’s credit report to ensure there are no unpaid student loans, or other obligations that could be offset against the credit.
• Validate that all of the eligibility requirements for the tax credit are fulfilled
• Review previous tax returns and IRS tax assessment letters, if any, to determine that the borrower does not have unsettled obligations to the IRS

III. Monitoring
In order to track the tax credit monetization activities, FHA will require FHA-approved mortgagees to input into FHA Connection the following data:
• Name and EIN of the party who purchased the tax credit, • The amount of the anticipated credit, and • The amount the homebuyer paid for the monetization services. The lender must also collect and maintain in the FHA case file the documentation that validates all of the tax credit monetization data submitted via FHA Connection. FHA will monitor the purchase of tax credit transactions closely. Charging of excessive fees or costs in the purchase of the tax credit or increasing other fees or charges in the transaction without FHA approval may result in referral to the Mortgagee Review Board, and particularly with respect to entities that are not FHA-approved mortgagees, referral to the Federal Trade Commission, or referral to the appropriate State Attorney General office, as may be applicable.

If you have any questions regarding this mortgagee letter, please call FHA’s Resource Center at 1-800-CALL-FHA (1-800-225-5342). Persons with hearing or speech impairments may access this number via TDD/TTY by calling 1-877-TDD-2HUD (1-877-833-2483).


HOUSING RESCUE PROGRAM DETAILS RELEASED

March 6, 2009

– President Obama earlier this week unveiled details of his home loan aid plan designed to help millions of Americans who are at risk of losing their homes.

Administration officials say the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan could help nearly nine million households restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.

The plan includes a $75 billion homeowner stability initiative that targets at-risk homeowners, many of whom have adjustable-rate mortgages that have increased house payments to as much as 50 percent of their monthly incomes.

This initiative offers cash incentives to lenders and borrowers for working out loan modification agreements that result in lower monthly mortgage payments and allow homeowners to keep their homes. Any bank that receives federal money under the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial rescue program will be required to take part.

Another component of the plan is intended to help as many as five million responsible homeowners who took out conforming loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance through those institutions.

To finance that effort, the Treasury is providing the two companies with up to $200 billion in capital on top of $200 billion that it had already pledged to them.

“This is not going to save every person’s home,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “The plan is not intended to . . . augment somebody’s loan for a house that they couldn’t afford under any economic situation, good or bad.”

According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, nearly 12 percent of homeowners — a record 5.4 million — were at least one month late or in foreclosure at the end of last year.

New York Times/Associated Press


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1 – How does it affect you, the home buyer?

February 12, 2009

The Economic Stimulus Bill (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1.) has been reconciled by the House and Senate. The details of the legislation have not been finalized but we expect the legislation to include a number of important housing provisions, including the remedies for the housing crisis that NAR prescribed at the annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

  • Homebuyer Tax Credit – a $7500 tax credit that will be available for qualified purchase of a principal residence by a first time homebuyer between January 1, 2009 and September 1, 2009.  The credit does not require repayment. Individuals who purchase in 2009 using financing assistance from state and local mortgage bonds will be permitted to use the credit, as well.
  • FHA, Fannie and Freddie Loan Limits – Revised loan limits for FHA, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae.  Specifics have not been released but reports indicate that the 2008 limits have been reinstated for 2009 except in those communities where the 2009 limits are higher. Additional increases in individual communities may also be available at the discretion of the HUD Secretary.
  • Foreclosure Mitigation & Neighborhood Stabilization – Funding for states and local communities to be used for neighborhood stabilization activities for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes are authorized.

These elements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are the pillars of the NAR Housing Stimulus Plan presented to the 111th Congress.  Additionally we continue to work closely with the Department of Treasury and Secretary Timothy Geithner to implement a mortgage buy-down program. NAR also recommended that the Treasury Department expand the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF) to include commercial mortgage-backed securities as eligible collateral.  The Treasury has approved this recommendation and this will encourage investment in the commercial real estate market.

The Economic Stimulus Bill (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1)
Additional Housing and Other Provisions of Interest to NAR

  • Rural Housing Service – Increased funding for the Rural Housing Service direct and guaranteed loan programs.
  • Low Income Housing Grants – Allow states to trade in a portion of their 2009 low-income housing tax credits for Treasury grants to finance the construction or acquisition and rehabilitation of low-income housing, including those with or without tax credit allocations.
  • Tax Exempt Housing Bonds – Tax-exempt interest earned on specified state and local bonds issued during 2009 and 2010 will not be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).  In addition, financial institutions will have greater capacity to purchase tax-exempt state and local bonds.
  • Energy Efficient Housing – Grants for energy retrofits for federally assisted housing (section 8), funding for Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grants to states, and Increases in the residential tax credit through 2010 for certain energy efficient upgrades.
  • Transportation –   Spending for upgrades and repairs of road, bridges and transit facilities.  
  • Broadband Deployment – Grants to make broadband available in unserved communities

As the leading advocate for homeowners and the real estate industry, the National Association of REALTORS will continue to address the issues facing Americans who are trying to purchase a new home, protect their current home or preserve investment opportunities in residential and commercial properties.

NAR recognizes the efforts of the members of Congress and the Senate who understand that without a housing recovery, an overall economic recovery is impossible.

 


Buying Real Estate in Houston? Yes, Virginia… its a great idea!

February 11, 2009

5-10 years from now when the financial crisis has ended and housing prices are up once more, we will look in the rear view mirror and realize that we missed the golden age for buying the dream home or being the “first time home buyer”. 

Smart people say, that moment of knowing we have hit rock bottom is only indicated by the time when everyone is the most pessimistic. That moment is certainly getting closer. 

“Smart buyers are buying now.” Why?

1.       We are in the midst of the best interest rates we have seen since we are told, the 1950’s! 4.5% is an amazing rate to lock in for 30 yrs! Jumbo loans at 7%!

2.       Sellers are watching the national news and know they are not in the driver’s seat right now so they are willing to negotiate. Even though we are not in a depressed or declining market, the sellers watch national news stories that say otherwise. Buyers can take advantage of the negative mindset of the seller right now about his property not moving fast enough.

Facts:
National employment 3rd qtr 2008, down 500,000 vs. Houston employment at 60,000 new jobs. 

Stable pricing is between 6-7 months of inventory according to A&M Research Center and Metrostudy. Same period facts of 3rd qtr. 2008, 6.5 months of new home supply in the market according to MLS and MetroStudy. 

State Resale Supply Statistics

State/City Months Supply
South Florida 28 Months
Chicago 15 Months
Atlanta and Phoenix 13 Months
Charlotte and San Diego 10 Months
Santa Fe, Albuquerque 9 months
Colorado Springs and Raleigh Durham 8 months
San Antonio 7.5 months
Dallas Forth Worth and Houston 6.5 months
Austin 5.5 months
Sacramento 5 months


I hit the largest cities and within these stats we have Raleigh and Charlotte in top 10 Recession Proof cities in the Nation and so is Houston, DFW, Austin, San Antonio but our inventory of homes is smaller.

Texas Markets 2008 through 3rd qtr. overall appreciation metrostudy
Austin: 5%
Houston: 4.4%
San Antonio: 4%
Forth Worth: 3.1%
Dallas: 2.1%

Where are you doing business?

10 year average home appreciation for Houston: 5.31%. Houston does not have the huge appreciation but it is not a depreciating market.

Multi-Market Closings for New Homes by Annual Closings

City Annual Closings
Colorado Springs less than 3,000
Santa Fe 4,000
Tampa 7,000
Denver 9,000
*Salt Lake City 11,000
*(#1 Recession proof city in the US according to Forbes Mag. 2008)
Austin 11,000
San Francisco 12,000
Raleigh/Durham 13,000
San Antonio 13,000
Las Vegas 14,000
Chicago 15,000
Charlotte 16,000
Orlando 24,000
Atlanta 25,000
Phoenix 29,000
DFW 29,000
**Houston 35,000
**Most Flourishing Market in the Nation and State with Annual New Home Closings


Texas has had and continues to have an overall escalating market.  
From 1st qtr. 2000 – Homes in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and DFW were basically selling at $200,000.

Today DFW is around $270,000; Houston is close to $300,000; While San Antonio and Austin sell at close to $310,000. Slow and Steady… 

Why Buy?

  • Affordability – Texas and specifically Houston is among the most affordable in the US
  • More choices in Houston than most other cities – single family, condo, high rises, lofts
  • The Meltdown is in Other Markets – not Texas “We have a Stable Local Market”
  • Good time to trade up – you may sacrifice on selling end but capitalize on the buying end
  • Interest Rates are affordable “right now”…we don’t know about summer or fall 09
  • Homeowners are very realistic right now about home pricing – we could say homes are “on Sale” right now!
  • Home prices in Houston and Texas are stable.
  • Houston’s economy is strong

While others in cities that have enjoyed great appreciating markets are concerned they will not be able to build equity as rapidly as they did in real estate years past, in Texas, we have never seen the high appreciating markets, we only have seen in the past 10 years, slow and steady…If you plan to stick around in your home, you will see an appreciation of your property. NAR statistics show the average first time home buyer plans to stay in their home for 10 yrs. now as compared to last year’s survey of 7 yrs. Maybe people have become more realistic about how long it takes to earn equity or maybe they have more confidence in real estate assets they can see and feel than other market assets. 

As much as we discuss appreciation, truth be known: People buy for Life style…not investment. 

You couldn’t be in a better State or better City for selling real estate. The facts are crystal clear:

  • You will have the best year ever if you believe in psychology of real estate.
  • If you tell yourself it is a bad time – it will be.
  • If you tell yourself it is a great time – it will be.
  • But the facts say, “it has been and will be a great time for real estate”.


The Most Flourishing Market in the Nation and State with Annual New Home Closings is Houston. 
Facts from MetroStudy 11/08 

Investing in real estate assets right now is the best placement of your money; it is a better hedge than gold.
Dr. Dotzour, TX A&M Research Center 1/12/09 

You couldn’t be in a better State or better City for selling real estate than Houston Texas. 
TX A&M Research Center Data 1/12/09 

More than 2 million jobs were lost between Nov 2007 – Nov 2008 in the Nation; representing 1.2 % of its labor force. The Texas economy gained 222,900 jobs during the same time period; an increase in labor force of 2.1%. 
Real Estate Center RECON 1/13/09

Houston has the strongest job market in the US. 
Metrostud, Jan. 12, 2009

Texas has the strongest job market by State in the US exceeding the nearest competition by 1000%. 
MetroStudy, Jan. 2009. 

Houston’s inventory of homes is 5-6 months on average. This is the lowest average days on market in the US. 
TX A&M Research Center Data 1/13/09 

“We are half way through our recession in Texas. It started out last Jan. 2008.” 
Dr. Dotzour, TX A&M Research Center 1/13/09 
Dr. Gilliland, A&M Research Center Jan. 12, 2009 

Texas is the #2 Destination State for Retirees. 
Dr. Gaines, TX A&M Research Center Data 1/12/09 

Houston has the most affordable median home price of any MSA. 
TX A&M Research Center Data 1/12/09.
 

“The Texas Land Sales Market is short of Phenomenal.


Understanding the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008

July 27, 2008

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3221, the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. The bill includes a temporary, $7,500 first-time home buyer tax credit which many believe will jump start the housing market and bring buyers off the sidelines. President Bush has since signed this bill into law.

Kieran P. Quinn, CMB, Chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) hailed the House of Representatives passage of the omnibus housing bill. The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 272-152, will now go to the Senate – where leaders have indicated it will pass – and then to President Bush, who has stated he will sign it.

Among the provisions in the bill:

FHA Modernization: Authorizes a $25 million appropriation to improve technology, processes, program performance, eliminate fraud and provide appropriate staffing. Effective January 1, 2009, it also increases the FHA loan limit to the lesser of 115 percent of the local median home price or $625,500 with a floor for lower priced markets of $271,000, establishes a 12-month stay on FHA’s proposal for risk-based premiums, sets the down payment requirement at 3.5 percent and prohibits seller-funded down payment assistance (both direct or through a third party). In my opinion: This means today’s buyer will have to have his “skin in the game” and not rely solely on outside sources for his/her downpayment. This is how purchasing a home used to be and should always be as buyers who actually have their hard-earned money invested in their home will be more likely to pay their mortages and stay in their home than just walk away and leave the property to foreclosure.

GSE Oversight Reform: Creates a new regulator (five-year term, appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate) with oversight authority similar bank regulators, establishes a new affordable housing fund and capital magnet fund to be funded by a 4.2 basis point fee on all new loans, significantly changes the affordable housing goals and raises the conforming loan limit to the higher of $417,000 or 115 percent of the local median home price, not to exceed $625,500 (the stimulus limits remain in effect until January 1, 2009). In my opinion: This will allow buyers in very expensive markets to find competitive loans as many Jumbo Loans (non-conforming loans over the loan limit) come with higher interest rates and are an unfair punishment for purchasing in a high dollar area).

FHA Rescue: Creates a voluntary program for lenders to write down the loan balance in exchange for an FHA guaranteed loan not to exceed 90 percent of the newly appraised value of home. The lender would pay a 3 percent FHA loan origination fee. To qualify, the borrower must have a debt-to-income ratio above 31 percent on the original loan. The program is capped at $300 billion. In my opinion: This will help keep many homes off the foreclosure chopping block and will have a positive affect on surrounding properties and homeowners.

Tax Incentives: Creates a $7,500 refundable tax credit for first-time home buyers, expands the volume cap for the low income housing tax credit, allows for tax-exempt treatment of bonds guaranteed by the Federal Home Loan Banks and exempts the low income housing tax credit from the alternative minimum tax. In my opinion: This is a fairly low cost incentive to help first time home owners enter the market.

Low Income and Affordable Housing: Encourages the development of low-income and affordable housing by harmonizing multi-family FHA mortgage insurance programs with the low income housing tax credit. Allowing these two programs to work together will result in more effective uses of both programs. In my opinion: Again, another low cost incentive for affordable housing.

GSE Backstop: Authorizes the Treasury Secretary to temporarily increase the GSEs’ line of credit and to, if necessary, buy equity in the GSEs in order to provide confidence to credit markets. Also provides a role for Treasury and the Federal Reserve in GSE oversight to ensure safety and soundness. In my opinion: Yes, another bail out but one that is necessary to our Nation – much like the airline industry bailout of years’ past.

TILA Reform: Requires TILA disclosures to be delivered seven days prior to loan origination, requires that disclosures include examples of how payments would change based on rate adjustments in addition to disclosing the maximum possible payment under the loan terms and mandates that the consumer receive early disclosures before paying anything more than a nominal fee that covers the cost of a credit report. In my opinion: Disclosures that should have already been required so that the lending vehicle is transparent to the prospective buyer. I have seen too many buyers that were blindsided by the costs of rising interest rates during the transaction as well as dealing with punitive pre-payment penalties after the sale. Education is never a bad thing and this mandated disclosure will be helpful to the general public.

Empowering States: Raises the cap by $11 billion on tax-free bonds that state housing finance agencies may use to help at-risk homeowners by refinancing troubled loans and appropriates $4 billion for states to purchase and renovate abandoned and foreclosed properties. In my opinion: Again, a good way to help keep homes out of foreclosure.

Licensing: Encourages state officials to create a national licensing system for residential loan originators, allows HUD to create a licensing system for those states that fail to enact their own, establishes minimum qualifications for all loan originators and requires federal regulators to create a registry for banks and thrift employees who originate loans. In my opinion: loan originators are poorly regulated and are certainly part of the problem that should be addressed. By mandating a minium qualification standard and licensing, perhaps this can be resolved. I personally am not allowed by my brokerage firm to originate loans for my clients. This could certainly be a source of conflict of interest and we choose to eliminate that from the transaction. I would suggest that buyers may wish to deal with a loan originator who does this full time rather than someone trying to handle all aspects of the real estate transaction.

All in all, this bill has good, strong point that should positively affect the current housing market and the economy as a whole. While I agree that no private industry should be “bailed out” when their bad practices have lead to ruin, this is an issue that goes beyond private industry. The secondary mortgage market is necessary to us all and we need to make sure we do everything we can to keep it healthy.