Posted by Tim Burrell - President Bush just signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.  The first thing I noticed is that some first time homebuyers may need to hurry.

If you are a buyer that does not have 3.5% downpayment and you want to buy some Raleigh real estate,  you have to buy before October 1, 2008.  The program where sellers can arrange for downpayment assistance ends on that date.  If you are a first time home buyer, you can get an amazing benefit of a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of the home you bought, up to a maximum of $7,500.   This is not just a deduction to reduce the amount of income you have.  It is a tax credit, i.e. it is directly lowers your taxes.   For example, if you buy a home that is worth $100,000, you get the maximum tax credit of $7,500.  If you were going to pay $17,500 in income taxes, you reduce the amount of tax you pay to $10,000.  So, you can buy a home with no money down and get up to $7,500 off your taxes. 

There is a catch.  You have to pay back the tax credit over 15 years, with no interest, or if you sell the house for a profit.   That is not so bad.  Where else do you get an interest free 15 year loan. 

The bill provides $300 billion in financing to allow people who got bad loans to refinance with FHA loans.   If you want to refinance the mortgage on your principal residence, the payments on your current loan have to be more than 31% of you income, the legislation's line of being unafordable.  I have paid over 31% of my income in housing payments for all the decades I lived in California.  The loan had to be taken out before 2008, so it is not meant for newly acquired loans.  The maximum loan is $550,400.  The loan cannot exceed 90% of the appraised value of the house, so the existing lender may have to take a short payoff to make the deal work, if the value of the home went down.  Since the values of Raleigh real estate are holding strong or going up, this provision should not be of major importance to our area. 

Again, this relief comes with a catch.  If you accept this refinancing, you have to share some of the profit with the FHA when the house sells or is refinanced.  FHA gets 100% of the profit if it sells, or refinances,  in the first year, and the amount for the FHA goes down by 10% per year until it reaches 50% for the FHA. 

The legislation also props up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The sudden decrease in the value of their stocks shows that the investment community has lost confidence in these institutions that are extremely important to financing in the US.  Since these two have an interest in nearly half the loans in the US, their stability greatly affects housing.  The legislation increases the lines of credit for these two and authorizes the government to buy their stock if necessary to give them additional support.  The loan limits for Fannie and Freddie were also raised to 115% of the areas median home price, not to exceed $625,500.  The last part does not have a dramatic effect on Raleigh real estate, as it will be a long time before the median price in Wake County will get anywhere near that limit.

There is one other provision that foreign investors like.  Under existing law, they had to fill out a form with their social security number and give it to the seller.  Now, they give the form to the closing agent and do not have to reveal their social security number to the seller.  Since the dollar is so low compared to foreign currency, there may be an increase in foreigh investors who purchase Raleigh real estate, so this provision may have some affect in our area.