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Update: Just heard from White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. The start date for the new $6,500 credit for existing homeowners will take effect as soon as Obama signs the bill into law tomorrow (Nov. 6). Sorry for the confusion. And thanks to “Dean” whose comment alerted me to my error. (In case you’re curious, this is the actual text of the bill. The credit extension was attached to a larger bill to extend unemployment benefits).
My last post was flooded with comments from readers asking whether the expanded credit will apply to them even though they closed on a home purchase earlier this year (or last year or the year before…). The answer: “No.”
It might seem unfair. But the new credit will take effect only after President Obama signs the measure into law tomorrow. Buyers will have until April 30 to sign purchase contracts and must close on the house by the end of June.
Under the new $10.8 billion plan, first-time buyers would continue to get $8,000 for buying a home. But existing homeowners will now be able to claim $6,500 credit for selling their current home and buying a new one, as long as they resided in the home they’re selling for at least five of the past eight years.
Income limits will also expand to $125,000 a year for individuals, and $225,000 a year for married couples. Sounds like a good deal right? Not judging from the flood of comments we’ve gotten from existing buyers who bought during the past several months. They feel gypped.
A commenter identifying himself as “Jim” said he bought a home during the Great Recession and was miffed that he didn’t get a tax credit because he wasn’t a first-time buyer. Now he’s angry.
“If they are handing out free money, give it to those who actually risked their capital,” he wrote a couple hours ago. “I am against this credit altogether … The government deciding who gets money and who doesn’t is TYRANNICAL.”
I sympathize with the comments. My parents only sold their Westchester County, N.Y. home of 30 years only a week ago and bought a much-less-expensive house one 15 miles away. They certainly would have qualified for the $6,500 credit and I’m afraid to break the news to them.
But the point of the credit is to stimulate home sales, not to hand out spending money (Though it will indeed stimulate some consumer spending). As I mentioned in my last post, it could be even less effective and efficient than the previous credit. If that’s the case, it’s best to put some limits on cost. Congressional analysts estimate that the six-month extension and expansion of the credit will cost taxpayers $10.8 billion. Can you imagine the price tag if it was made retroactive to the beginning of 2008?
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.