First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit Impacts Winter Real Estate Market

here has been a lot of talk recently about the impact of the Federal First Time Home Buyer tax credit. The newspapers, the talk shows, the blogs, and the radio dj’s have all been talking about how important it is. I wanted to take the opportunity and make clear, in detail, the benefits to first time home buyers, aside from the $8,000, and give some much needed insight into how this program is going to impact the number of home and condo sales in the Cincinnati real estate market in the winter/spring 2010.

The Federal Government extended the tax credit through April 30. This means that you must have an accepted contract signed by both parties by then and must close the sale on or before July 1, 2010. But there is more.

Did you know it now offers $6,500 to people who have already owned a home and are buying another larger or smaller home?  So if, for example, you are looking to move out of Hyde Park and into the burbs, this credit is great news for you. The program is designed to create new inventory for first time home buyers. If you have owned and occupied your current home as your primary residence for 5 of the last 8 years then you may be eligible for a $6,500 tax credit depending on your income as there are income limits.

To qualify for the $8,000 tax credit you (and your spouse if you are married) cannot have owned a home within the last 3 years. If you owned a home and sold it back in 2005 to relocate and rented for 4 years then you may qualify! Never have you ever owned a home you say? I’d say it is worth finding out if you’re eligible for an $8,000 credit. There are income limits and sale price limits on this tax credit so please check with your accountant or Realtor to be sure you meet the criteria.

You should also know that you can use the tax credit in a number of ways. You can use it on your 2009 or 2010 tax returns. The credit amount is equal to 10% on the purchase price of the home up to $8,000 of credit, or $80,000 of purchase price. Now that you know there is an $8,000 credit waiting for you, how are you going to take advantage of it? What should you do? Who should you call? When do you need to take action?

The first step is thinking about your home as an investment, an investment you can sleep and entertain friends in.  Start evaluating if home ownership is right for you right now. This is not a decision you should rush. It is always better to wait and buy when the time is right for you. Next, you need to speak with a mortgage lender and get prequalified for a loan that is within your financial means. Mortgage brokers or mortgage lenders can help you with this step. The third step is finding a house that is the best fit for you. But with an April 30th deadline when should you start and when should you write a contract?

If possible, you should start your home search in earnest in February, and submit your offer no later than mid April. You have to work backwards and look at the contracting process and the whole market to understand why February is the key month. Sellers who want to capture the surge of these qualified first time home buyers are going to need to get their houses prepared for sale and listed in February to give them the most exposure to the potential buyers. The same thing is true for buyers. If you are not actively looking for your dream home it may be purchased before you even see it. I believe that February is going to be a very active month for new listings and proactive buyers in every neighborhood in Cincinnati.

Typically the process of completing a contract from purchase to closing takes between 30 and 45 days. There are many steps that go into a real estate transaction, including home price negotiations, home inspections, repairs, remediations, loan applications and acceptance, appraisals and more. Another important tip is that it is best to try to secure a property before the April 30th deadline if possible to ensure enough time to find the property and negotiate agreeable terms. Inspectors will be busy, contractors will be booked, and banks underwriters will be backlogged. So the sooner you make an offer the better the chance you have of making the deadline.

If you have any additional questions about the Tax Credit and how you can take advantage of it please feel free to call me and ask questions. I would be happy to provide you resources and information that will make your home buying experience exceptional.

Alison Moss is a 9 year veteran of the real estate industry and can be reached at 513-518-1140 or by e-mail at

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