Posts Tagged 'first time home buyer'

Opportunities Abound for First-Time Homebuyers

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By Keith Reilly

If you have recently decided to move from renter to homeowner, you are not alone. First-time homebuyers made up 41 percent of the market, according the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2008 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. And price declines in many markets around the country have created unique opportunities for those considering home ownership for the first time.

As a homeowner, you have security and stability, the freedom to decorate and remodel, potential to build equity and tax benefits. And with interest rates still at historically low levels – 5.22% for the typical, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (as of early August 2009), combined with ample inventory, now is a great time to buy.
Plus, there are several incentives and programs available specifically for first-time homebuyers.

First-Time Homebuyer Credit
One program that is a great financial opportunity is the highly publicized First-time Homebuyer Credit, which was part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. This federal initiative allows first-time homebuyers to take up to an $8,000 tax credit, which doesn’t have to be repaid, toward a new or resale property purchased prior to Dec. 1, 2009. For new construction, the purchase date is considered to be the date you first occupy the home.

Under this program, a first-time homebuyer is considered to be anyone who has not owned a principal home within the last three years. If you are married, both spouses must meet this criterion. However, unmarried joint purchasers may allocate the credit amount to any buyer who qualifies as a first-time buyer. In addition, ownership of a vacation home or rental property not used as a principal residence does not disqualify a buyer as a first-time home buyer. You are also eligible to claim first-time buyer status if you owned a principal residence outside of the United States within the last three years.

The actual tax credit may vary depending on the purchase price and your income. The credit is generally equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, not to exceed $8,000. In addition, the income limit to receive full credit is $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return.

For complete details, visit www.irs.gov and www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. As always, consult with your tax advisor on how this tax credit may affect you.

Mortgage Loans
As a first-time homebuyer, you don’t have the advantage of using the equity in a previous property to help bridge costs associated with down payment, closing and other fees. Many financial institutions have mortgage products with you in mind. In addition, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers mortgage programs in which your down payment can be as low as 3.5% of the purchase price, and allows most of your closing costs and fees to be included in the loan. Although FHA does not directly loan to consumers, you can work with a FHA-approved lender. For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

The transition from renter to homebuyer is a large step and is arguably one of the largest investments you’ll make, so make sure you take advantage of all the assistance available to make the road to homeownership that much easier.

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Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Home-price adjustments in markets around the country have opened doors of opportunity for many renters. If you are transitioning from renter to homeowner, the prospect of making such a large investment may be exciting, while at the same time overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are six common mistakes to avoid.

1. Not understanding the home buying process. Educate yourself. Find a homebuyer seminar that you can attend or research online. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Web site (www.hud.gov) has an entire section devoted to homebuyers with common questions of first-time homebuyers, mortgage and home-buying programs information, downloadable tools such as a wish list and home-shopping checklist, tips on selecting a real estate professional, etc. Likewise, Prudential Real Estate’s popular Web site, prudential.com/real estate, offers consumers brand-new tools for the home buying process, such as free home environmental reports, Value Range Estimates and Property Profiles, among other resources.

2. Not asking questions. There are many facets and intricacies to the home buying process, so although you may gain a basic knowledge, you will still have questions. Don’t hesitate to let your real estate professional know that you are new to the process. Make sure you choose a sales professional who is willing to spend time with you and walk you through the entire process. He or she will expect you to have questions at each step—from house hunting, to making an offer to the closing. Remember, this is one of the largest financial transactions of your life, so you want to have a clear understanding of what’s going on.

3. Buying on impulse. Don’t feel pressured into making an offer on the first home you see. Buyers, especially first-timers, may be impressed by the first two or three homes they view. Look at a good selection. List the positives and negatives about each home. Narrow the prospects to three or four and then return for a closer look. When you decide to make a bid on a property, work with your real estate professional to get all of your questions answered before making an offer. But don’t wait too long to make an offer. The longer you wait, the greater the chance other prospective buyers may place offers, making it harder for you to negotiate a good deal.

4. Looking outside your price range. Before beginning your home search, consider getting pre-qualified to so get an idea of how much you may be able to borrow. Use this information as a starting point in determining your price range. Then take into consideration other factors that will affect your monthly budget once you are a homeowner, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, private mortgage insurance (PMI) and maintenance.

5. Not planning ahead. Think about personal changes you are planning in the next five to seven years. For instance, are you starting a family, and if so, is the home large enough and will it continue to be? If this will be a starter home or if you think you’ll be relocating in a few years, you’ll probably want to pay closer attention to appreciation and resale value. If a double-income is necessary to qualify for financing and to make your payments, do your plans foresee an income sufficient to continue making payments?

6. Failure to focus on location. Don’t just focus on the house. Examine the community. Does it suit your lifestyle? Is the area safe, well-maintained, close to work, stores and schools? Find out about zoning and what new construction is planned on vacant land in the immediate area. Also consider the property marketability when it’s time to sell.

Above all, remember knowledge is key. No question is a silly question. Your real estate professional can be an invaluable asset throughout the process. Making smart home buying decisions will make the home-buying process less scary and your first home purchase a rewarding experience.