Well, not in terms of prices, but programs. So in order to do something useful with my $50 Manolo housing rant, let me tell you of why I know DC is a great place to be a first time homeowner.
$5000 Tax Credit (pdf form)
OK, five grand is just a drop in the bucket, but I found the refund I got back for the two years after I bought my home (I didn’t pay enough in taxes to collect it in one lump sum), helpful. Besides every penny counts.
Below Market Rate Loans From The Housing Finance Agency
I was working with a councillor from the now defunct non-profit who steered me over to the DC Housing Finance office over on Florida Avenue. At the time they were offering 30 year mortgages at a rate so low, it was almost like an interest free loan. They were offering something lately but the 5.6% rate with 2 points was only good till Dec 15, 2007. The process was not without its headaches. I thought the woman administering my paperwork was slow and a bit mean. But in the end I got the loan, which will be forever called the 1st mortgage that will not be touched.
My housing councilor and my Realtor pushed the tax abatement, which in those early years made my house payment affordable. If you’re low-moderate income, you’d probably qualify. I was making what I’ll call a starter salary in my profession, so I wasn’t poor, but I wasn’t completely economically stable either, and the year before I made half of squat. So I qualified, with about $10K between me and the cutoff.
The abatement is a five year period of not paying real estate taxes. The money I saved, allowed for an emergency fix-crap fund. It seems that I could have extended the abatement if I hadn’t made $400 over the cutoff amount. So in year 6 I got hit with the full assessed amount, which was a lot, as the assessed value was 4x as much as it was when I bought it. I just got my tax bill and I praised G-d. My taxes have readjusted so it reflects what I would have been paying had I not taken the abatement. So I wasn’t punished for taking that deal. I can’t find an earlier post I made about how the RE tax system rewards long-term homeonwers who stay put AND take the Homestead Exemption. Long and short of it is, people who have owned their homes for a number of years (basically prior to the Real Estate boom) tend to pay less taxes than their neighbors who bought recently IF (big if) they have the Homestead Exemption.
There are other programs for 1st time homebuyer available to DC residents like the HPAP, but I didn’t use those, so I cannot testify to their goodness or badness. Also I think there were some real estate transaction costs that were dismissed because of my status, but I’m fuzzy on that. And there is a caveat to the loan (and/or maybe another program), in that if I sold my house within 10 years of purchase I’d have to pay the city back some of the benefits.
DC looked like a better deal when I was first looking because it has various programs like I mentioned above, that I could not find for Maryland or Virginia.