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Tax credit boosts housing market

A tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified first-time home buyers has spurred some activity in the market.

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 has extended the tax credit through April 30, 2010. Also eligible are buyers who have not owned a home for the past three years.

“It’s helped some people who haven’t owned a home before to have some incentive to see if they qualify,” Susie Williams of Tom Murphy Realty said. “Any time you own a home rather than rent, you’re putting money in your pocket.”

There is also a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified existing homeowners through the same date. Eligible are those who have lived in their home for five consecutive years of the eight years prior to the purchase date. Of course, for married taxpayers the law tests the histories of both people.

While the purchase date typically refers to the date of closing and deed transfer, home purchases closed by June 30, 2010 will qualify as long as the contract is signed by April 30, 2010.

“For the buyer, it’s a wonderful thing, and for the seller it’s a wonderful thing,” Kevin George of RealtySouth said. “It’s getting people out there looking.”

George said both prices and interest rates are currently down. Recently, he said, he heard of a mortgage lender offering 30-year fixed rates below 5 percent.

“A $120,000 home might be bought for around $110,000,” he said.

A 56-year-old woman who had never owned a home was able to purchase a Montgomery home valued at nearly $180,000 for $152,000, at the aforementioned interest rate. Factor in the full tax credit, and that comes to about $144,000.

“It’s a great example of what a first-time buyer can take advantage of,” George said.

He advises people who do not think they can afford a home to talk to a lender and see what they qualify for.

“A person shouldn’t disqualify [himself],” he said.

For more detailed information on the tax credits, visit www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.