Make us your home page

Tapping the $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers upfront

WASHINGTON — For the housing market, it's the equivalent of financial alchemy, and it's hot: turning the $8,000 federal home-purchase tax credit, which normally can't be spent until after you receive your refund, into immediate, hard cash available for down payment and closing costs.

Congress' stimulus bill tax credit for 2009 is generating efforts nationwide to find ways to "monetize" it, providing money to buyers who need it for down payments now, not next year after they file their federal returns. The credit is only available to qualified taxpayers who have not owned a house during the previous three years, and who close by Nov. 30, among other requirements. Buyers can amend their 2008 returns to claim the credit or claim it on returns for 2009.

In recent weeks, at least 10 states say they have come up with ways to work this monetary magic. They have created innovative bridge-loan programs that advance credit-eligible purchasers the cash needed for closings. Generally the advances take the form of second mortgages — with or without interest charges — that become due and payable whenever purchasers receive their refunds from the IRS.

Buyers in Missouri, the first state to create such a program, can get a no-cost "tax credit advance" of up to 6 percent of the home price. The advance is actually an interest-free second lien that is repayable no later than June 2010, once the buyers have received their $8,000 tax credit.

If buyers can't meet that repayment deadline, the advance morphs into a traditional second mortgage with a 10-year payback term and a fixed interest rate one-half a percentage point higher than their first mortgage rate. The underlying first loans are all fixed-rate 30-year mortgages issued by private lenders participating with the tax-exempt bond programs of the Missouri Housing Development Commission.

Colorado kicked off a similar program, known as "JumpStart," April 14. Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, Idaho, Washington, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Mexico have come out with their own versions, some with modest interest charges on the second mortgage from the beginning.

In Washington, where the state Housing Finance Commission already runs a tax credit bridge-loan program for buyers using its mortgages, state Treasurer James McIntire wants to make it much bigger. He has been pushing for creation of a "public-private" down payment program that could reach far larger numbers of consumers than is possible under the housing commission's current funding constraints.

McIntire has proposed depositing $25 million of state funds into interest-earning accounts at an FDIC-insured bank. The bank would then provide revolving lines of credit to the state housing commission to expand its down payment bridge-loan efforts. In a novel arrangement, the Washington Association of Realtors has pledged $400,000 as a backstop for McIntire's plan to cover any unexpected losses. The state Legislature has authorized the program in its new budget.

Bill Riley, the incoming president of the association, says research by his group has shown that fully half of all would-be first-time buyers in the state "cannot save enough money for the down payment and closing costs" — effectively locking them out of both the $8,000 credit and current low mortgage rates and house prices, even when their monthly incomes qualify them to purchase a home.

McIntire is also trying to convince the Obama administration to allow the state to tap into bridge loan-assisted home buyers' amended 2008 tax returns and be directly assigned all or a portion of the tax credit refunds. Under current IRS rules, according to McIntire, tax refund checks are sent only to the taxpayer's address. To ensure prompt repayment of bridge loans, the state would like to have refunds mailed to the housing finance commission in cases where repayment of a bridge loan is due.

In letters to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, McIntire argued that credit monetization programs run by states are crucial to the success of the federal effort to stimulate first-time home purchases in 2009. But the states need quick, direct access to federal tax credit dollars to pay back down payment bridge loans, thereby allowing them to loan out more money before the Nov. 30 expiration of the federal credit.

Charles McMillan, president of the National Association of Realtors, sent a similar request to Shulman. An IRS spokesman said officials are reviewing the issue.

Bottom line: Since other state housing agencies reportedly are considering rolling out credit monetization programs on their own, keep your eye on what's happening in your area. A no-cost advance tied to the $8,000 credit just might get you the down payment and closing cash you need.

Ken Harney's can be reached at

Tapping the $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers upfront 05/01/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009 7:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Special to the Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy but keeps stores open (w/video)


    NEW YORK — Toys 'R' Us, the big box toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season — and says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

    Shoppers shop in a Toys R Us store on Black Friday in Miami in 2016. Toys R Us, the pioneering big box toy retailer, announced late Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while continuing with normal business operations. [Associated Press]
  2. Trigaux: Waiting for your next pay raise? Keep dreaming, employers hint

    Working Life

    The economy's bouncing back. The stock market keeps hitting new records. And the jobless rate in Florida may soon drop below 4 percent. Surely, these are robust indicators — key signs that an annual raise is just around the corner. Right?

    Who doesn't want a pay raise? Demonstrators have rallied for years in a number of states for a $15 minimum wage. But many workers across a broad pay range are unlikely to see much if any raises this year, a new survey says. [AP Photo/Seth Wenig]
  3. Florida Guard scales down troop strength; Navy sails away from the Keys

    State Roundup

    The Florida National Guard on Monday drew down its activated statewide forces to about 1,200 on-duty troops, mostly in operations focused on relief distribution in the Florida Keys — and the last of a mini-armada of U.S. Navy ships off Key West set sail for home.

    Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's Delta Company, 1st Battallion, 124th Infantry, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Sept. 14. The Federal Emergency Managment Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma.  [Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images]
  4. LOCALE Market hosting St. Pete job fair for hospitality positions


    ST. PETERSBURG — Locale Market / FarmTable Kitchen is hosting a hospitality job fair Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LOCALE Market at 179 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. Organizers said they hope to hire about 20 workers with a focus on displaced workers from Hurricane …

    Locale Market is hosting job fair on Tues., Feb. 19. [LARA CERRI | Times] 

  5. So far, 335,000 Irma claims totalling $1.95 billion filed in Florida


    Times Staff Writer

    As of Sunday afternoon, insurers had received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported Monday based on preliminary figures.

    This shows a damaged mobile home inside Clover Leaf Farms RV Park in Brooksville. So far, insurers have received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma.
[MEGAN REEVES   |   Times]