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Homebuyer Tax Credit to Expire -- Maybe?

The First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit is set to expire June 30. If you haven't already gone to contract on a place, it's too late, because the credit applies only to purchases whose contracts had been signed by April 30.

However, those purchases have to close by June 30, creating a real-estate industry bottleneck of last-minute appraising, title searching, and underwriting -- all those pesky little activities that come before a close. As a result, an article in last week's Wall Street Journal mentioned the possibility that Congress grant an extension of the credit to in-process buyers.

The main help would be to short-sale buyers, who went into contract and then found that the property's mortgage lender -- or sometimes even lenders -- took months rather than weeks to approve the sale.

If you're in the position of trying to rush to a close, here are three tips that might help:

  • Sometimes you can speed up an appraisal by paying a rush fee. Check with your mortgage broker or banker to see if that's an option.
  • If you can get to your loan processor, be nice! Remember that this poor soul has a desk full of files from people just like you, who all need to close by June 30. Swearing is not going to get you moved to the top of the pile.
  • Warn your attorney what's coming. For a closing, you'll need a bunch of parties to be able to be there -- including, often, buyer's attorney, seller's attorney, and lender's attorney. At least in my market, the lender's attorney won't schedule a closing until their bank has cleared the file -- but an experienced real estate attorney has enough pull to say: "If we can get the file cleared by Friday we might want a close the Wednesday after, what does your schedule look like?"
Good luck! And watch this space -- if Congress grants an extension, we'll let you know.