Do You Qualify For A Home Buyer Tax Credit? Can Help

Every day, someone writes me to ask if they qualify for one of the home buyer tax credits. Here's today's email:
I read your Home Buyer Tax Credit: How to Cash In story. I think that it was very detailed and helpful for many people. However I didn't find the key information I am looking for: do I qualify for this credit? I am a Canadian and am taking Ph.D. study in a US university. This is my second year. I will stay in US for at least three years. I receive full studentship including about $2,500/month living stipend. In this case, do I qualify for the "home buyer tax credit"? I am looking forward to your early reply. Thank you in advance.
I answered this email by replying that unless he was a legal, permanent resident, he would not qualify for either the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit or the $6,500 trade-up tax credit.

Then, I remembered that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate launched a new website last week:
The website is well-designed. The website offers a 10-question eligibility test. At the end of the test, it tells you whether you're able to qualify for a home buyer tax credit, and provides a free copy of a whitepaper that explains some of the details associated with the tax credits.

Here are the 10 questions:

  1. Are you 18 years or older?
  2. Are you a U.S. Citizen who files income tax returns? (The options include yes, no, or I am a resident alien.)
  3. Is the property located in the U.S.?
  4. What type of house are you planning to buy? (Options include single family house, condo, co-op, townhouse, multifamily home, manufactured home, such as a houseboat, trailer or mobile home, or other.)
  5. Are you planning on living in the home for three years?
  6. Are you planning on buying from a corporate entity you control, from your close relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren), or from your spouse's close relatives?
  7. Are you planning to buy a house that costs $800,000 or less?
  8. Are you buying or building a new construction home? (To be eligible for the home buyer tax credit, you must close and have a certificate of occupancy by June 30, 2010.)
  9. Will you be under contract by April 30, 2010? (You can close up until June 30, 2010, but must be in a legally binding contract by April 30.)
  10. Will you be able to close by June 30, 2010?
Once you figure out whether you're eligible, the site then walks you through whether you're eligible for the trade-up credit or a first-time home buyer tax credit.

If my mail is any indication, folks who got married last year and each owned a separate home for five consecutive years, and have now bought a house to live in together, are pretty unhappy. That's because they do not qualify for the trade-up home buyer tax credit. For some reason, the IRS requires that you and your spouse live in the same house for the previous five years. (If you don't like this, take it up with the IRS or your Washington, D.C. Representatives/Senators. They're the ones who voted for this.)

The site does an excellent job of explaining the ins and outs of the tax credit tax law.

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Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and the upcoming Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at