Jul 2009 23

Hundreds of first-time home buyers in Massachusetts will be able to get an advance on an $8,000 federal tax credit, allowing them to apply the money to down payments and closing costs, under a new program unveiled by Governor Deval Patrick yesterday.

Under the plan, the state will loan $8,000 to eligible borrowers who buy a home before Dec. 1 and finance it through the state’s affordable housing bank, MassHousing. The loans will be interest free if repaid by June 1, 2010. By that time, buyers will be able to claim the $8,000 federal tax credit included in the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2009.

“That’s phenomenal. That should kick in some lower-end buyers who haven’t been able to get into the market,’’ said Ronn Huth, owner of Buyers Choice Realty in Wenham. “Most of the buyers we are working with are looking forward to claiming the $8,000 tax credit.’’

MassHousing estimates it will be able to help between 650 to 1,000 peo ple by the end of November, using $5 million set aside for the program.

The state bank, which sells tax-exempt bonds to raise capital, grants loans to those who meet certain income guidelines, depending on household size and region. For example, an individual or couple in parts of Worcester County can qualify if they earn no more $103,800.

“These loans will both help prospective home buyers achieve the comfort and stability of homeownership for their families and also stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy through increased home sales,’’ Patrick said.

Massachusetts joins more than a dozen states nationwide that have developed their own bridge loans under a plan announced by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in late May.

At that time, federal officials said home buyers could apply their tax credit toward new home purchases when financing through the Federal Housing Administration or through state and local housing finance agencies.

Borrowers with an FHA-insured loan are still required to provide a 3.5 percent down payment before they can use the tax credit for any additional payment or closing costs.

Under the Massachusetts program, the $8,000 can be used to cover an entire down payment. Borrowers can purchase a one- to four-family home and must use it as a primary residence.

Gary Dwyer, a broker-owner of Buyer Agents of Boston, said the tax credit has prompted many of his clients to consider buying a home despite the down economy. The MassHousing program should help some borrowers close their deals, he said.

“For first-time home buyers, $8,000 is a lot of money,’’ Dwyer said. “It is one of the key reasons a lot of people are out there looking.’’

The federal tax credit is intended to stir the nation’s sluggish housing market, and it may be working. First-time home buyers made up 29 percent of real estate transactions nationwide in May, up 10 percent from the same time last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Mary Trupo, the association’s spokeswoman, said the new programs to provide immediate financial assistance to first-time home buyers will further help revive the housing market. The association is pushing for lawmakers to extend the tax credit into 2010, increase its value, and remove restrictions on income and other limitations.

“We believe it will bring more people back to the market,’’ Trupo said. “Just as it is getting up and getting going, it could be stunted by an expiration date.’’

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