The $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers is set to expire at the end of November, but lawmakers don’t want this benefit to end. While there have been some positive signs in the real estate market, the current credit hasn’t done much to stimulate house prices or the economy overall. All year, some senators and representatives have been suggesting improvements designed to further jump-start the real estate industry, none of which have been passed yet. Here are some of the enhancements they have been considering.
- Extending the deadline from November 30, 2009 to May 30, 2010 or November 30, 2010.
- Expanding the credit to all home buyers rather than just those who have not owned a house in the past three years (otherwise known as “first-time” home buyers).
- Increasing the credit from $8,000 to $15,000.
- Eliminating the income cap for qualification of $75,000 (or $150,000 for married filers).
These changes, if signed into law, would redirect the focus of the credit from the average consumer who needs a little boost to purchase a primary residence to investors and speculators. Flippers would still be discouraged because the bills currently under consideration in the House and the Senate both call for paying back the credit if the house is sold within two years or if the purchaser is not a primary resident sometime within two years.
For many people, $8,000 is not a big enough incentive to buy a house if they aren’t financially ready to do so. I don’t think increasing this to $15,000 would change much. This credit, if the changes become law, is a bailout of the housing industry, just like Cash for Clunkers was a benefit for the auto industry.
Updated December 26, 2010 and originally published September 18, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.