Monday, June 29, 2009

$8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

Some Quick Q&A

When do I need to purchase to qualify?
If you buy a home between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1 this year and close escrow during these dates, you will qualify for an $8,000 tax credit - as long as it is your primary residence and you meet the simple requirements.

How does the law define "first-time homebuyer"?
The law defines "first-time homebuyer" as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase.

What are other requirements to qualify?
All U.S. citizens who file taxes are eligible to participate. An income limit of $75,000 a year for individuals and $150,000 a year for joint filers also applies.

How do I apply for the credit?
Taxpayers should use IRS Tax Form 5450 to claim the first-time homebuyer tax credit.

Does the credit have to be repaid?
No. Unlike a similar tax credit passed in 2008, this $8,000 tax credit does not have to be repaid to the IRS.

Can I use the tax credit toward a down payment or other closing costs?
Yes. An announcement made May 29 allows the tax credit to be used toward purchase costs of a home, including down payment in some cases. This can be done one of two ways. First, buyers using an FHA-approved lender can sell their anticipated tax credit to the lender and use the proceeds to immediately apply the tax credit to any down payment above the minimum down payment of 3.5 percent required with FHA-insured mortgages. Second, buyers who receive financing through state housing finance agencies and certain non-profits will be able to use the tax credit for their down payments via a tax credit advance loan that does not result in any cash back to the buyer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Law Puts Credit Card Companies in Crosshairs

From Military.com By Kelly Johnson

A new piece of legislation was recently signed into law that has credit card companies in its crosshairs. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 aims to protect credit card holders from unnecessary interest rate hikes, finance charge increases and other unfair practices that ran rampant in the past.

The act — signed into law by President Barack Obama on May 22 — amends the Truth in Lending Act to prohibit creditors from increasing the annual percentage rate of interest (APR) to an existing credit card balance unless specified conditions are met. Additionally, creditors are prohibited from extending a line of credit to consumers under age 18, unless they’re emancipated under state law, or the consumer's parent or legal guardian is designated as the primary account holder.

According to bill sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-NY) website other notable provisions include:

  • Prevents cardholders who pay on time from being unfairly penalized.
  • Protects cardholders from due date gimmicks.
  • Shields cardholders from misleading terms.
  • Empowers cardholders to set limits on their credit.
  • Requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments.
  • Prohibits card companies from imposing excessive fees on cardholders.
  • Prevents card companies from giving subprime credit cards to people who can’t afford them.
  • Requires Congress to provide better oversight of the credit card industry.

Consumer advocate organizations and lawmakers applaud the signing of the bill of rights. The Center for Responsible Lending released a statement the day President Obama signed the act stating:

“The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights arrives just in time. If deceptive credit card activities continued unchecked — as with subprime mortgages — the results would be even more devastating for borrowers and an economy already struggling to avoid financial ruin.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine also commended the move to protect credit card holders, calling the bill “comprehensive reform” that will “make it easier for Americans to pay down their debt and empower consumers to understand the terms of the credit card agreements.”

The new regulations won’t go into effect until the summer of 2010, which according to some financial experts, gives creditors time to hike up interest rates before they have to abide by the new regulations. However, Maloney has a way for consumers to register complaints if credit card issuers continue unfair practices.

Maloney proposed The Banking Hotline bill (HR 1455), which will establish a single toll-free number and website to help consumers register complaints about their banks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

10 Reasons Why The Homeownership Resource Center is Such a Valuable Asset to the State

1. The Homeownership Resource Center (HRC), a division of Family Services Inc., is the lead agency in the nation for helping individuals and families foreclosures. Our success rate hovers between 66 and 70% -- that’s unmatched anywhere else in the nation.

2. The HRC’s Mortgage Default Clinic model has been recognized as a best practice by Neighborworks America.

3. The HRC regularly receives referrals from politicians at every level, including state representatives and senators, county officials, and members of the US Congressional delegation.

4. HRC counselors recognize foreclosure scams, and since the housing crisis started 2 years ago, it has helped hundreds avoid sending money to particular people or entities promising things that sounded too good to be true. Additionally, the HRC – working with the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs – has helped many homeowners recoup their dollars.

5. The HRC has a Critical Response Coordinator, who is especially adept at pulling homes back from the auction block – in many cases, with less than 24 hours notice.

6. The HRC has unique access to mortgage lenders, servicers and providers and utilizes special phone and fax numbers, and has the ability to email designated points of contacts. Homeowners, calling on their own, face the 800-customer service number. HRC counselors speak to the representatives who can make real-time decisions.

7. HRC counselors are licensed and certified by state and national agencies. Additionally, continuing education credits required quarterly. Our counselors go beyond the standard to target emerging trends.

8. All the HRC’s mortgage default counseling services are available statewide and to residents in North Carolina. (Bankruptcy and credit counseling are not available due to state licensing laws.)

9. As a HUD-certified agency, the HRC does not charge for mortgage default counseling.

10. While the HRC works efficiently and knowledgeably, compassion for people is its hallmark, and while hundreds, if not thousands, of homes have been saved, it celebrates that families will remain together; kids won’t have to change schools, and that seniors can enjoy their golden years in the homes that hold a lifetime memories.