President Obama has signed into law the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (H.R. 3548) that included, as an amendment, the extension and expansion of the Homebuyer Tax Credit.
The bill provides a new incentive for existing homeowners who have owned their current homes at least five years, making them eligible for tax credits of up to $6,500 when they purchase a new home. I believe this provision benefitting existing home owners, combined with historically low interest rates, will help engage a large number of qualified move-up buyers who have been sitting on the sidelines hesitant to list their current homes… if they act now!
The bill also extends the previous incentive for first time homebuyers – or anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years. Those buyers will still get up to an $8,000 refundable tax credit.
The legislation includes other qualification provisions. For example, the credit is available only for the purchase of principal homes (no second or vacation homes) costing $800,000 or less and the credit is scaled back and gradually eliminated for individuals with annual incomes above $125,000 or couples with incomes above $225,000.
To qualify under either provision, buyers must sign a purchase agreement by April 30, 2010 and close by June 30. This is likely to be the last tax credit that the government will offer to first time and move-up buyers. The window of time is shorter than it may seem, especially for potential buyers who need to list and sell their existing homes. We must do everything we can to help them take complete advantage of it.