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Fla. Realtors boost awareness of credit for new homebuyer

By Staff | Jul 16, 2009

The Florida Association of Realtors embarked on a program this week designed to raise awareness of the state’s efforts to help first-time homebuyers get federal tax credits faster.
Included as part of the federal economic stimulus package passed in February, the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers will not be received by beneficiaries until they get their tax returns next year.
Florida legislators passed a bill earlier this year that will allow qualifying homebuyers to receive the credit in advance and pay the state back when they receive their tax return.
In addition to dubbing this week “Welcome Home Week: Making Homes Affordable,” the Florida Association of Realtors is running 15-second radio ads throughout the state, hosting seminars and educating Realtors on the program.
“It’s really material for Realtors to get educated about it so they’ll be able to get out there and help their customers,” said Marla Martin, communications manager for the association.
To qualify for the federal tax credit and the state’s upfront credit, prospective homebuyers must not have owned a residence in the last three years.
To receive the credit, homebuyers must close on a single-family home, condo, townhouse or co-op by Nov. 30.
The credit can be used to help with a down payment, closing costs or renovations, and repairs.
Some people who qualify for the credit may not receive the maximum $8,000, since the credit only covers 10 percent of the cost of the residence. A $70,000 home, for example, would only garner a $7,000 credit.
Higher income earners may not receive the maximum credit.
Single homebuyers whose income does not exceed $75,000 and married couples whose income does not exceed $150,000 are eligible for the full $8,000.
Those with higher incomes are only eligible for partial tax credits under the federal program.
Single filers making more than $95,000 and dual filers making more than $170,000 are not eligible for any portion of the credit.
The state legislation for the tax credit became effective July 1, but the $30.1 million set aside by the state Legislature for the program is not yet in place.
Florida must collect sufficient doc stamp fees from real estate transactions — the funding mechanism for the tax credits — before the credits can be disbursed.
“Everybody is waiting to hear when the funds will come down,” said state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Prospective homebuyers can still sign up to be pre-approved for the credit when the funds become available.
Local administrators of the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, a Florida Housing Finance Corporation program, are also handling the state’s tax credit program.
Cape Coral home seekers should contact Amy Yearsley, the city’s SHIP coordinator, at 573-3182.
Homebuyers in other areas can visit the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s Web site at: apps.floridahousing.org/StandAlone/FHFC_ECM/AppPage_SHIPLGContacts.aspx to look up contacts in their specific location.
According to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s research, the tax credit will help more than 3,000 people into new homes.
“That’s 3,000 people that might not be able to afford a down payment or closing costs,” Martin said.