Does the first-time homebuyer credit still exist?

By Sabrina Karl

One of the consumer benefits that emerged from the Great Recession was the first-time homebuyer credit. Enacted by the Bush administration in 2008, the program provided a tax credit to Americans buying their first home.


Part of the Housing & Economic Recovery Act, the tax credit was available to first-time buyers who purchased their home in 2008, 2009 or 2010. Although the credit has since been retired, you may still be in luck if you qualified with a home purchase during those years and neglected to file the credit, or you became a first-time buyer later.


If you closed on your first home between April 9, 2008, and September 30, 2010, you could still qualify. A number of variables come into play, so the best way to determine your eligibility is to consult a tax accountant.


You’ll want to consider a few things before going down that path, however. For instance, on first homes purchased during the eligible 2008 dates, the credit is not in fact a true credit, as it requires repaying it with your annual tax return for 15 years after the home’s purchase. So someone claiming the maximum $7,500 credit would repay $500 per year over 15 tax returns.


In 2009, the Obama administration revised the program slightly, upping the credit to an $8,000 maximum and forgiving its repayment for those living in the home as their primary residence for at least 3 years after taking the credit. So if you bought during 2009 or 2010, but sold or moved within 3 years, you’re out of luck.


For first-timers who bought after the program’s 2010 sunset date, you may still have options. Many state and local governments offer their own programs for first-time buyers, so researching what’s available in your area could turn up other financial benefits.