2010 Real Estate Guide
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4 tips for the homebuyer tax credit

3. Get good advice

Homebuyers who want to take advantage of the tax credit should consult the right people for help, including:
  • A tax preparer, who can help them ensure they meet all the requirements to use the credit.
  • A mortgage lender, who can help them choose a loan program that will fit their needs.
  • A Realtor, who can help them locate a home they can afford and want to purchase.

Buyers should be aware that not all loans allow the borrower to finance closing costs or accept a contribution from the seller toward those costs, Bernard says. Many loan programs do allow those options, but that "certainly is not a blanket opportunity," she says. Buyers whose savings won't stretch to cover all the out-of-pocket costs to buy a home should discuss that constraint with their loan officer or mortgage broker.

4. Beware of tax fraud

According to Patti Ketcham, broker and owner of Ketcham Realty Group in Tallahassee, Fla., homebuyers should educate themselves about the tax credit and learn the lingo.

"It is critical that buyers educate themselves and that they not fall for the slick smoke and mirrors," she says. "Anytime you have found money, it brings out all the rats."

Three Web sites that may be helpful are:

Buyers and sellers should be wary of any advice that sounds suspicious or overly complicated, Ketcham says. For instance, buyers who are told to conceal any information from their lender should "get away" from whoever offered that advice, she says.

One final tip: The IRS has found such a high incidence of fraud and creative tax accounting associated with the homebuyer tax credit that taxpayers who take the credit will now be required to attach a copy of the settlement statement to their federal tax return as proof of purchase. Buyers should keep their paperwork handy.

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