Purchasing your first home may be costly - the down payment and closing charges alone can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The good news is, according to a survey by the Urban Institute, there are over 2,500 grant and loan programs nationwide that may assist in making your house purchase more reasonable. Even better, you may be eligible even if you've already bought a property.
While the Obama administration's first-time homebuyer tax credit expired in 2010, consider how state-level tax credits and other initiatives might assist first-time homeowners.
Who is considered a first-time homebuyer?
Aside from persons who have never owned a property, the Federal Housing Administration defines first-time homebuyers as:
• Anyone who has not owned a primary residence in the past three years
• Anyone who has not owned a primary residence in the last three years
• Anyone who has owned a house that is not permanently attached to a foundation, and anyone who has only owned property that does not correspond to state, municipal, or model building regulations (and that cannot be modified to comply with such rules for less than the cost of a new dwelling)
For example, if you've only owned an investment property in the past or your primary house is a mobile home, you may qualify for new home buyer tax credits.
Where can I look for first-time homebuyer tax benefits in my state?
Although the federal first-time homebuyer incentive is no longer available, comparable programs are likely to be available locally. Some governments also provide zero-interest loans and grants to help with the expenses of purchasing a property, such as a down payment.
Many first-time homebuyer programs provide tax breaks in the form of mortgage credit certificates (MCC), which convert a portion of your mortgage interest into a federal tax credit. The tax credit is typically limited to $2,000 and is nonrefundable.
What additional tax breaks am I eligible for?
First-time homebuyers are eligible for the same tax breaks as other homeowners. Some of these advantages are deductions that decrease your taxable income, while others are credits that reduce the amount of tax you owe dollar for dollar.
Deduction for mortgage insurance
While you cannot deduct homeowners' insurance rates, you may be able to deduct mortgage insurance premiums if you itemize on Schedule A.
The tax credit applies to any mortgage insurance you paid, regardless of whether it was for a conventional loan or one backed by a government agency, such as an FHA loan. You may also subtract the financing charge from a Department of Veterans Affairs-backed mortgage.
If you paid more than $600 in interest during the tax year, expect to get a Document 1098 in the mail from your mortgage lender; this form contains the mortgage interest you paid as well as your mortgage insurance.
Deduction for mortgage interest
You may deduct mortgage interest paid on your federal income tax return using the mortgage interest deduction. To qualify for the tax reduction, you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A.
Married joint filers may deduct up to $1 million in mortgage interest if the loan was taken out before December 16, 2017. If you purchased your house after that date, you may deduct interest on mortgage debt up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you're single or filing separately).
Mortgage points may also be deducted. As long as you itemize your deductions, you may deduct mortgage points either in the year you buy the property or gradually throughout the length of your loan.
Deductions for property taxes
The SALT, or state and local tax deduction, enables taxpayers to deduct money paid to state and local governments for income or property taxes.
If you itemize on Schedule A, you may deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes from your federal taxable income.
Tax breaks for renewable energy
If you've made energy-efficient renovations to your house, you may be able to save thousands of dollars in taxes.
Homeowners who install:
• Solar panels can claim a solar tax credit
• Geothermal heat pumps
• Small wind turbines
• Fuel cells
• Energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems are eligible for the domestic energy efficient property credit.
The Energy tax credit is worth up to 30% of the cost of installing these systems, depending on when the system was put into operation. However, the credit gets lower each year until the end of 2021, so time is critical if you want to take advantage of this tax reduction.