State

Rebates Revived

A newly revived housing fee rebate program can save new home buyers thousands of dollars in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.

The California Housing Finance Agency's School Facility Fee Down Payment Assistance Program enables buyers to get refunds from the state for the school fees paid by builders.

The rebate amount varies from house to house, and only subdivisions that paid the fee are eligible to participate.

But for some buyers, the rebate can be big bucks. And because the Northern San Joaquin Valley is considered "economically distressed," virtually everyone who buys a home in eligible subdivisions will be able to get at least some money.

Example: JKB Homes' Sterling Ridge development in Riverbank paid school facilities fees.

According to JKB's calculations, it paid $7,182 for the 1,575-square-foot home it's building at 5525 Savage Ave. That three-bedroom, two-bath house is priced at $225,340.

If a first-time buyer with moderate income — say a family of four earning up to $67,800 per year — purchases that home, the buyer will get all $7,182 back from the state.

That money can be used for a down payment, closing costs or any costs associated with the buyer's first mortgage loan.

If the home is owner-occupied less than five years, a portion of that money must be repaid. But if the buyer lives in that house for five years or more, the money does not need to be repaid.

Even high-income buyers who own a home can get some money from the state. For that home on Savage Avenue, the minimum rebate is about $3,040.

Here's the best part, that rebate is in addition to state and federal tax credits.

First-time buyers, for instance, can get up to $8,000 in federal income tax credits. New home buyers in California can get up to $10,000 in state income tax credits.

So a moderate-income, first-time buyer who purchases the Savage Avenue home could get the $7,182 fee rebate, plus the $8,000 federal tax credit, plus the $10,000 state tax credit, for a total government-paid benefit of $25,182.

"We are eager to once again use these programs to help meet the housing needs of California families," said Steve Spears, CalHFA's acting executive director. "While the financial market turmoil continues and California faces unique challenges economically, there is perhaps no more important time for our agency to work on behalf of California families."

Funding for the school fee rebates is coming from voter-approved bond measures. About $32 million in rebates have gone to 7,800 homeowners, but the program was suspended in December 2008. It just started up again this month.

Buyers must check with individual home builders to find out how much they paid in school fees for each house. Not all new home builders pay school fees.

There are price caps for the new homes that qualify for the rebates. The cap is $687,050 in Stanislaus, $571,288 in Merced and $444,650 in San Joaquin.

For more information about CalHFA's School Facility Fee Down Payment Assistance Program, and the agency's other programs to help home buyers, go to www.calhfa.ca.gov.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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