The $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit pushed up sales in 2009 and part of 2010. Now Baltimore's housing department is hoping $10,000 toward closing costs and downpayment will drum up as much interest in vacant homes, the city's perennial problem.
The agency plans to officially announce the incentive today -- a total of $500,000 available for the first 50 buyers of Vacants to Value properties. Homeowners can qualify either by finding a recently rehabbed home that the city considers a Vacants to Value property or by purchasing a still-vacant home with a rehab loan such as a 203(k).
Ken Strong, assistant commissioner for green, healthy and sustainable homes at Baltimore Housing, said the city is putting together a list of eligible homes. The program will launch July 1, he said.
The money comes from bond funds intended for homeownership incentives.
"We've had such a slow year -- the housing market has been so depressed -- that some of the money we've set aside for homeownership incentives in the past year have been unspent," Strong said. "Now we want to target them to get real stimulus into Vacants to Value."
The city's Office of Homeownership, 410-396-3124, will handle questions about the program. The money can be used with other incentives, such as Live Near Your Work and Buying into Baltimore.
Buyers, do these sorts of incentives make a difference? I'm curious whether they get people off the fence or change buying patterns. The now-gone federal tax credit was widely seen as encouraging people who would have bought a bit later to speed things up -- at a multi-billion-dollar cost.
UPDATE: Here are more specifics from the city about which homes are eligible:
1. A city-owned vacant house sold since July 1, 2010 and rehabbed for homeownership
2. A city-cited property with a "vacant house" notice since July 1, 2010
3. Any property that has been vacant for a year, as long as the evidence of that -- from the seller and/or buyer -- is acceptable to the city