Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deadline looming for first-time buyer tax credit

This is just a reminder that the time is running short to be able to take advantage of the refundable tax credit for first-time buyers outlined in the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."


Here is some additional information about the tax credit:

  1. Max Amount: The first-time buyer credit is equivalent to 10 percent of the purchase price of the home and is capped at maximum amount of $8,000. The tax credit can only be used to purchase principal residences (and principal residences. But unlike an earlier $7,500 home buyer tax credit, this one does not have to be repaid.
  2. First time buyers: For the purpose of this tax credit, a "first-time home buyer" is someone who has not owned, or been included on title to, a property in the last three years. Unmarried joint purchasers can pass the credit to any buyer who qualifies as a first-time buyer. For married buyers, both must qualify as first-time buyers to be eligible for the tax credit. The credit can be used to purchase a new or older home, condo or manufactured home.
  3. Date restrictions: Only those who purchase a home – on or after January 1 and before December 1, 2009 are eligible for the credit. “Purchase Date” is the date that title is transferred. in Minnesota, this is your closing date – not the date you sign your purchase agreement.
  4. Income limits: There are income limits to claim the credit. The tax credit phases out for single taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $75,000 to $95,000. For married couples who file jointly, the phase-out is between $150,000 and $170,000.
  5. Refundable: the tax credit is refundable, meaning that homeowners that owe less than $8,000 in federal income taxes will actually receive a refund of the difference.
  6. Recapture: Buyers have to own the home for at least three years in order to capitalize on the credit. If they sell the home before then, they will have to return the credit to the government. (Exceptions may be made in certain cases, such as death or divorce.)

For a printable version of the tax credit information listed above, click here.

Ready for home ownership? Not sure if you can afford it? Wondering if there are other programs/incentives/dollars available for first/time buyers? Not sure what steps to take next? Speak with a HOME STRETCH housing counselor for answers to these... and any other home ownership questions you may have!

For more information about HOME STRETCH, click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mpls Fed's 'Community Dividend' Highlights Home Stretch Provider

The most recent issue of the "Community Dividend" (Issue 3, 2009) highlights the "New Markets Mortgage Program" - a home financing (mortgage) product that replaces interest payments with a higher-priced markup of the purchase price - in order to certain religious prohibitions on the charging/paying of interest.

Additional information about the African Development Center, the MN Home Ownership Center's network partner, and the New Markets Mortgage Program (NMM), and can be found here.

Additional information about "Home Stretch" the pre-purchase training workshop that all NMM candidates are required to attend, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's official - Foreclosure is Depressing

The University of Pennsylvania has published research this week in the American Journal of Public Health on the - not surprising - link between foreclosure and depression.

Nearly half of the report's participants in Philadelphia whose homes were in foreclosure reported depression symptoms, and more than 1/3 of the participants "met screening criteria for major depression."

All struggling homeowners know that facing foreclosure can be a daunting - even depressing - undertaking. If you're struggling with your house payments... you're not alone. In Minnesota, there is a network of non-profit housing counselors ready, willing and able to assist YOU. For more information, click here.

To view a first-hand account of the assistance offered by these housing counselors (in the homeowner's own words)... click here.

Hennepin County Recieves Award from National Association of Counties

Hennepin County has been awarded a 2009 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) for its Foreclosure Prevention and Response Program. Not only did the Foreclosure Prevention and Response Program win an Achievement Award, it also won this year's "Best In Category" award from NACo!

Here's a picture of just some of the people that have worked together on Hennepin County's award-winning efforts:

(Photo Courtesy of Hennepin County Public Affairs)

The award was granted for the outstanding efforts that Hennepin County has undertaken to assist homeowners that are facing foreclosure. The abstract from the award states:

... In response to the mortgage meltdown, commissioners formed a cross-departmental Foreclosure Task Force to focus on prevention, stabilization, and recovery. Among the Task Force’s chief recommendations was the creation of a lead staff person to serve as a central contact for county foreclosure information and resources. The county designated two staff members to implement the education and outreach of the Task Force’s recommendations which included the following: $1.25 million for the city-county initiative to remove vacant and boarded houses from severely impacted neighborhoods; the creation of a data center to improve the county’s ability to track the foreclosure issue and allow such data to be easily shared; the mailing of over 10,000 foreclosure information inserts in tax-delinquent notices to home-owners; and the creation of foreclosure mini-workshops for home owners and renters in Hennepin County. Thus far, over 200 people have attended the county’s twelve workshop seminars. Because tenants of properties are often unaware of the potential for foreclosure, many are left in vulnerable situations. The county’s effort to keep its residents informed and offer them financial counseling is a helpful tool that can reduce the amount of foreclosures and help to stabilize its communities.

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center is pleased to be a partner of Hennepin County in their outreach efforts, we assisted in the creation of the foreclosure information inserts, and the mini-workshops for homeowners and renters.

Information about the materials that Hennepin County used to mail to delinquent taxpayers... and how these materials can be customized to reach YOUR consumers/constituents, click here.

For a list of upcoming workshops held at Hennepin County Libraries this fall, click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Center Launches Spanish-Language Website

¿Habla EspaƱol?

The MN Home Ownership Center is pleased to announce that its Spanish-Language website it up and running!

The Center assumed responsibility of the Emerging Markets Homeownership Initiative earlier this year, and continues to strive to reach emerging markets homebuyers and owners with the launch of its website in Spanish.

In addition to the launch of the website, the Center has translated ALL of its fact-sheets, flyers and consumer alerts in Spanish as well!

You can visit the new site, here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Report Shows Decline in Foreclosures in MN

A report published this week, co-authored by the MN Home Ownership Center, shows there were 11,089 foreclosures in Minnesota at the end of the second quarter, compared to 13,591 during the same period last year. If this pace continues, Minnesota will see a 15% reduction in the number of foreclosures in Minnesota over last year. In 2008, there were 26,261 foreclosures in Minnesota, the highest number of foreclosures on record.

The report, titled “Foreclosures in Minnesota”, analyzes sheriff’s sale data, the primary means of identifying foreclosures, from all Minnesota Counties. Minnesota is unique among other states in the availability of current, comprehensive sheriff’s sale data.

While the exact reasons for the decline are unknown, it is likely the result of actions taken by lenders, homeowners and homeownership counselors rather than improved housing and economic conditions. On the lending side, many of the major lenders placed moratoriums on foreclosures in late 2008/early 2009 and more lenders are now working with homeowners to modify loans. In addition, the number of mortgages that are 60+days in default continues to climb. If a workout cannot be obtained with the lender, many of these homeowners may be forced into foreclosure, potentially driving up the foreclosure numbers in the second half of 2009.

This report, published since 2007, now includes QUARTERLY data - and shows year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter information for Minnesota foreclosures.

You can view the report, here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Partner Organization, NeDA, highlighted in Twin Cities Daily Planet

One of the Center's partner organizations, the Neighborhood Development Alliance (NeDA) has been highlighted in an article published on August 10th in the Twin Cities Daily Planet entitled: "Flor's story: Fighting foreclosure in North Minneapolis".

NeDA has been working with a struggling homeowner, Flor Garcia, since May in order to help her understand her rights and responsibilities with her mortgage, as well as mediating on her behalf with her lender, Countrywide, to attempt to get her a loan modification that will be affordable for her.

Garcia, who learned about the foreclosure prevention services of NeDA through the Jewish Community Action, has become an advocate for other struggling Latino families... to let THEM know about the resources available through NeDA:

Garcia is working with her lender, Countrywide Financial (which has recently merged with Bank of America) to lower her payments and get her home out of foreclosure, and has also begun to volunteer with Jewish Community Action to help other Latino community members understand the help and resources that are available to them.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments... HELP IS AVAILABLE! Services are available in English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali. Don't delay, waiting limits your options. Find your local foreclosure prevention counselor, and other resources, here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Open Positions at MN Home Ownership Center

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center is currently recruiting for TWO full-time positions.

1. The first position is for an Outreach and Communications Coordinator as an AmeriCorp member. Here is a brief overview of the position:

The primary tasks will be about: supporting consumer and community outreach with an emphasis on communities of color; developing tools to inform homeownership industry professionals and consumers about new programs and
funding sources for homeownership; and providing training and support to the
counseling agencies in the Center’s network.
Candidates interested in the Outreach and Communications Coordinator can visit a complete job description and application requirements at the MN Council of Non-profits job board here.

2. The second position, a full-time staff position at the Center, is for a Program Manager for Emerging Markets. Here is a brief overview of the position:

The Program Manager coordinates a variety of programming aimed at enhancing homeownership opportunities for communities of color with an emphasis on American Indians in Greater Minnesota. Provide technical assistance, training and other support to homeownership education and counseling pilot programs in Greater Minnesota. Coordinate outreach activities and events in partnership with the organization’s partner agencies. Lead activities of the organization's overall emerging markets programming.

Candidates interested in the Program Manager for Emerging Markets position can visit a complete job description and application requirements at the MN Council of Non-profits job board here.

The MN Home Ownership Center is an equal opportunity employer.

UPDATE: If you've gotten here from a link on the MN Home Ownership Center's website regarding the open positions, please feel free to check out the rest of our blog... it's chock full of information on affordable housing issues, housing research, homebuying, foreclosure prevention and much, much more. Read the full blog, here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Safe at Home Documentary - Video Clip Online

Safe at Home: Preventing Foreclosure, gives an overview of the Foreclosure Prevention efforts of the foreclosure prevention specialists in Minnesota.

It explains the current mortgage crisis in our state and, more importantly, explains the efforts that are underway to assist consumers and rebuild neighborhoods. The program comes to life with the contributions of two brave home owners who were willing to share their personal stories so that Minnesotans watching could learn about the real warning signs of falling behind – and the benefits of counseling.

The personal story of one of these homeowners, Molly O, is now available on the Center's YouTube channel. Click here to view the video.

In addition, YOU (Yes, you!) can help us spread the word about this important documentary. We hope that you will be able to use the documentary in your efforts to raise awareness about foreclosure in Minnesota.

To help you use this program in your efforts to promote SUSTAINABLE home ownership in Minnesota, we have created a tool kit of materials. This kit includes:
  • Copy of the documentary on DVD.
  • A tip-sheet of ideas for using the program to reach homeowners in your community.
  • A tip-sheet for asking local public access stations to air the program.
  • A sample newsletter article for use in your internal publications.
  • Press releases sharing the stories of home owners for distribution to local newspapers.
  • Sample email text for distribution to your contact lists.
We hope that you will consider using these materials in your community, on websites and as you speak with people about the benefits of protecting home ownership. Together, we can continue reaching home owners and preventing foreclosures across Minnesota! To order YOUR copy of the toolkit, just send an email to Ed Nelson at the MN Home Ownership Center:

Center updates the MN Foreclosure Process Chart

One of the most frequently downloaded documents from the Center's website is the MN Foreclosure Process timeline document. The Center has updated the information several times since the original document was created in 2008.

Once again the we've updated the "MN Foreclosure Process" document to include information on the timing homeowners can anticipate receiving a "Pre-Foreclosure Notice" as well as the window-of-opportunity homeowners have to postpone the Sheriff's Sale date under MN State law.

For a high-quality (printable) PDF of the Foreclosure Process Chart, click here.

UPDATE: The chart is also available in SPANISH. Click here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Network Thank-You Event in St. Cloud

Yesterday, August 5th, 2009, the Minnesota Home Ownership Center had the opportunity to thank almost 100 of our housing counselors and their managers at a special "Thank-You" event we hosted in St. Cloud: "Housing Counseling: Facing Challenges, Realizing Success"

The day started with an inspirational message from keynote speaker, Greg Risberg - who had the crowd laughing/crying/cheering for over an hour. Greg's message was "You're Making a Difference" - - a great message for the counselors, and Center staff, to hear!

You can hear/see much people enjoyed Greg's presentation here (video shot during one of his breakout/discussion points):

Greg's presentation was followed by a buffet lunch and then an afternoon of breakout sessions. The first round of breakout sessions included peer-led discussions on:

  • Effective Negotiation Strategies for Working with Servicers
  • Engaging Consumers in Pre-Purchase Counseling
  • Transitioning Families Through Foreclosure
  • Maximizing Home Stretch Workshops

The next round of breakout sessions included topics by local experts:

  • Stephen Wreh-Wilson from the African Development Center spoke on: Immigrants, Communities and Regional Development: A Minnesota Perspective

  • Kristin Fischer Rosel from the public Relations firm Himle Horner spoke on: Public Relations, Working Effectively with Local Media; and

  • Michael Grover of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis spoke on: Today's Housing Market and Trends.

The day ended with an informal social hour with drinks and appetizers.

All-in-all it was an entertaining, refreshing and, of course, educational day! A HUGE thank-you to the statewide network of Housing Counselors - - you really are making a difference!

Additional Photos from the event will be available on our FlickR gallery shortly!

UPDATE: Photos are up on FlickR!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Focus Group Volunteers Needed

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center is undertaking a series of focus groups to learn how we can better serve future homeowners.

This is a great opportunity for you and your friends/family members/clients! All focus group participants get a $50 gift card!

1. Focus Group #1: For Real-Estate Industry Professionals

Needed: Interested brokers, loan officers and real estate agents who have limited knowledge of Home Stretch.

Date: Monday August 17, 2009

Time: 3:00 - 4:30pm

Location: St Paul, MN

Focus Group #2: First Time Homeowner Focus Group

Needed: Anyone who recently purchased their first home, but did NOT attend a Home Stretch workshop.

Date: Monday August 17, 2009

Time: 6:00 -7:30pm

Location: St Paul, MN

Advance registration is required. Space is limited. Sorry, No childcare will be provided.

For additional information or to register please contact Brooke Walker at 651-659-9336 x 106 or by email at

For more information on Home Stretch and upcoming workshops please visit

We'll post the findings of the focus groups when available.