Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Housing Bailout: Do You Qualify?

It's been a busy week in the housing market "stabilization" business. If you're finding it hard to keep up, it's no surprise. The latest proposals have only been sketched out in broad strokes: More details are coming on March 4.

But here are broad points that you should know about:
1. To find out whether you qualify for the bailout, check your financial statements and do the math. Under the current proposal, you'll only qualify if your monthly payments are at least 38% of your income. Some people may have an incentive to quit their jobs, or at least dump their second job, to hit this threshold, because this bailout can be valuable.

2. If you are a responsible homeowner but are locked out of the refi market because the housing collapse wiped out your equity, you may benefit from the new refi assistance.

3. Anyone who hopes to qualify for either program should start gathering their paperwork now.

4. Many renters have been kicked out of their homes because deadbeat landlords walked away from their loans, leaving the banks to foreclose. If you're in that boat, good news: The administration is about to offer $1.5 billion in relocation and other forms of assistance.

5. Middle class taxpayers should take a look at one $8,000 freebie. Anyone who hasn't owned a home for at least three years is entitled to a helpful tax credit, for up to 10% of the cost, up to $8,000, if they buy a home this year.

6. Living in an expensive home in San Francisco or New York and missing out on the refi boom? Good news. The government just raised the "conforming loan" limits to $729,750 from $625,500,

7. This is a good time to get some double glazing, insulation, and other energy-efficient home improvements. The stimulus package gives a tax credit of up to $1,500, covering 30% of the costs.

8. And if grandma is looking for a reverse mortgage, the limits for reverse mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration have been raised to $625,000 from $417,000.

Source: SunshineMLS, Inc.
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