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Q: Are There Tax Credits for First Time Homebuyers? A: Yes, thanks to the many city and county governments that offer Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) programs, which allow first-time homebuyers to take advantage of a special federal income tax write-off. The credit reduces the amount of federal taxes paid by the buyer each year, if he keeps the same loan and lives in the same house. An MCC also makes it easier for eligible buyers to qualify for a mortgage loan. The lender can reduce the housing expense ratio – the percentage of gross monthly income applied toward housing expenses – by the amount of the tax savings. Normally, lenders reject loans if the housing expense ratio is too high.

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Home Starts Up 10.8 Percent in 2015 Total housing starts were up in 2015, weighing in at 1.11 million—that's 10.8 percent higher than 2014. This information is based on the Census Bureau's recent December 2015 data release, which allows us to look at 2015's starts as a whole. Despite December being slightly down-- 2.5 percent to 1.15 million—the yearly status overall was positive. “Starts were expected to increase in December because of the unseasonably warm weather, but instead they declined,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “However, the monthly change was not statistically significant – the monthly data was too thin and noisy to give a clear reading. Even the year-over-year change in the December reading was not statistically significant. Starts were up 11 percent in 2015, and up in all regions but the Midwest, but single-family starts were up in all regions. Single-family construction finally grew at a double digit pace, nearly matching multi-family.”

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Residential Construction Activity Moves Up in April The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau jointly announced the new residential construction statistics for April 2015. Building Permits Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,143,000. This is 10.1 percent (±2.2 percent) above the revised March rate of 1,038,000, and is 6.4 percent (±2.1 percent) above the April 2014 estimate of 1,074,000. Single-family authorizations in April were at a rate of 666,000; this is 3.7 percent (±0.9 percent) above the revised March figure of 642,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 444,000 in April.

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Mortgage Applications on the Move Mortgage applications increased 2.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 17, 2015. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 2.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 3 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 1 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 5 percent from one week earlier to its highest level since June 2013. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 6 percent compared with the previous week and was 16 percent higher than the same week one year ago.