Homebuyer tax credit gets a push

In Owings Mills, spotlight shines on programs to aid prospective purchasers

April 07, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

After house-hunting for several months, attending pre-purchase counseling seminars and researching mortgage options, Antoinette Guy-Wharton is ready to buy. The single mother and insurance consultant has found a bank-owned home in Randallstown.

As a first-time buyer who is income eligible, Guy-Wharton qualifies for a recently enacted $8,000 federal tax credit. Because she is purchasing a foreclosed home, she can also apply for funds through the Neighborhood Conservation Initiative, which helps communities attract buyers to areas with high foreclosure rates. The program will lend up to $50,000 for settlement costs, restoration work or to decrease the mortgage amount.

"These programs are all making homeownership a reality for those who didn't think it could be real," said Guy-Wharton at a news conference Monday in Owings Mills.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin organized the event at a recently sold townhouse to push the tax credit, which Congress passed as part of the economic stimulus package, and to advocate for buyers' counseling and to boost the slumping housing market. With home prices and mortgage rates low and the tax credit available through November, "Now is the time to buy," Cardin said, while standing in the garage of the home whose buyers took advantage of the credit.

In Maryland, first-time buyers accounted for nearly 40 percent of the market last year. The credit should help 300,000 families nationwide to purchase a first home, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"This credit is providing first-time buyers with a much needed cushion," said Nnaemeka Chima, a county real estate agent. "It is also having an exponential effect bringing more buyers into the market and helping to stabilize home prices."

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said home purchases are vital to the success of communities everywhere, adding that the credit "provides the economy and the housing market a boost when it is needed most."

"This is a stimulus in the truest sense of the word," Smith said.

Encouraged by the $8,000 tax credit, Don Carwell, a butcher, said he plans to make an offer on a home soon.

"In this economy, you just can't save a lot," he said to the crowd of officials. "This is really making housing reachable. Go out and get your house."

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