The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced that eligible borrowers who intend to purchase an FHA-insured home may elect to 'monetize' the first-time homebuyer tax credit and apply those funds toward their down payment or closing costs. Previously, buyers could only receive the credit (up to $8000) by amending their 2008 income tax return or waiting until they file their 2009 return.
Read more about this new program:
HUD news release (opens as a Word document)
Here are a few of the rules involved (per HUD's letter) in order to be able to use this credit before you actually purchase your home:
• 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.
So, you have 3.5% of the purchase price saved up to use as your down payment on your FHA loan and you want to use the tax credit you qualify for in order to not have to pay closing costs out-of-pocket. What's the next step? Get your lender to participate in this program. However, most, if not all, lenders are not participating.
You will have a hard time actually using this new program and getting your tax credit up front. As of today, it is near impossible. Why? Lenders want to be able to have borrowers sign a document that would allow the credit to be disbursed directly to the lender when the borrower files their 2009 income taxes, but they are not allowed to do this because the government feels it would not protect the consumer.
As a result, lenders have little to no protection or guarantee that the borrower will send the credit to them next year and have no desire to have these short-term loans convert to secondary liens on homes. If this does not change, it will be yet another example of good idea, bad implementation.
*The above material should be used for information only. Please consult your lender and tax professional with any questions. Maybe your lender will allow you to use this new program. If so, please share your success with me. And, if you are looking to cash in on the tax credit in Massachusetts, let me know and I will provide you with all the information you need to become an educated consumer.