Extending the Home Buyer Credit

Memorial Drive in West Hartford's Blue Back SquareThe National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been leading a push to get part of the Federal Home Buyer Tax Credit extended. But don’t get too excited – their proposal won’t give allow anyone new to claim the credit.

Before diving into the details, here is a quick review of the current rules of the game:
1. First time buyer or existing owner (extra criteria).
2. Binding purchase contract by April 30, 2010.
3. Closing by June 30, 2010.

In a June 11th press release, NAR argues that 180,000 buyers met the first two rules but are at risk of missing out on the credit because their lenders will not be able to underwrite the mortgage in time. In fact, they state that “as many as one-third of qualified applicants have been notified by their lender that their mortgages will not close before June 30th.” NAR would like to protect these buyers by extending the deadline for closing to September 30th.

NAR’s main concern is that the surge in purchases at the end of April is overwhelming lenders. Others seem to believe that the tighter lending standards and the new appraisal rules that fall under the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) are a big part of the delay. A number of articles, including Senator Reid’s press release on the issue, state that there is “growing concern” that short sales will be impacted.

We have heard about mortgage delays with some of the larger national lenders and with special programs (like CHFA) that require additional steps or approvals. However, buyers using standard mortgages with local and regional lenders are seeing their loans go through without much trouble. Appraisals can be an adventure when someone is assigned from outside of the area (like from Rhode Island!), but they have occurred in an expeditious manner. Short sales are a whole different animal, and the concerns identified seem to lead to a discussion about when the purchase contracts becomes binding – not a debate for today.

Buyers in Greater Hartford are seeing some of the same challenges that have been reported in the country overall, especially when they use national lenders. Hopefully we won’t see too many closing delays as the month of June comes to an end. And if the “closing by June 30th” rule is relaxed, that will help ensure everyone gets the incentive they were expecting.