Florida created a program to help first-time homebuyers get their federal tax credit early, allowing them to use up to $8,000 toward a downpayment. The effective date for the program is July 1; however, it will probably be another few weeks before the funds are available.
While most first-time homebuyers qualify for the tax credit (given by the government as an income tax rebate regardless of tax owed), they once had to buy a home first, submit the info to the IRS through their tax return, and wait for the $8,000 rebate. To help these buyers get the money early enough to use it as a downpayment, the State of Florida created a program of bridge loans, the Florida Homebuyer Opportunity Program (FLHOP), where money can be borrowed from the state and then paid back after the new homeowner receives his tax credit.
Florida Homebuyer Opportunity Program (FLHOP)
The Florida Legislature created the state program during the recent legislative session, and it’s part of the 2010 budget effective July 1, 2009.
• Money for homebuyers may not be available until the first week of August. Lawmakers funded the program through doc stamp taxes applicable in the new fiscal year rather than through a lump sum commitment; and since today is the start of the new fiscal year, the program won’t be fully funded until the state collects new doc stamp taxes.
• Florida’s downpayment loan program can work with FHA loans. Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) – the state agency that funnels housing money to local housing agencies – received confirmation from FHA that borrowers who access the $8,000 tax credit through a state or local government program may use it to make up the required 3.5 percent downpayment, unlike the FHA downpayment loan program through private lenders.
• Florida’s local housing administrators will oversee the downpayment funds at the local level. (To find the administrator in your area, go to: http://apps.floridahousing.org/StandAlone/FHFC_ECM/AppPage_SHIPLGContacts.aspx). • Realtors can start to promote the program to potential homebuyers. It takes time to close on a home, and local housing authorities should be taking applications now.
• FHFC says they’ve trained local administrators on procedures for the Florida downpayment program. Local housing authorities will have flexibility over the $8,000 loan, be able to include penalties, and create a structure dictating how the new homebuyer will pay back the money.
It’s important to note that this money is a bridge loan to buyers; but once it’s repaid, local governments and housing authorities can keep the money and use it locally for affordable housing projects.
For specific questions about the $8,000 tax credit, homebuyers should consult a tax professional.
© 2009 FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
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