A Race Against Time


Some families take months, even years, to find the perfect home. But with the homebuyer tax credit deadline looming, Robin Taney had to make the biggest financial decision of her life in just a matter of days.

In 2003, Robin and her soon-to-be husband, David, bought their first home together -- a two-bedroom, one-bath Colonial in Rochester, N.Y. It was everything that the young couple could have wanted. Or at least they thought it was. In 2008, they took custody of their 18-month-old foster son, and everything changed.

"Bringing him home was the greatest thing we'd ever done," Robin says. "But it also made us realize how much we needed a bigger house."

The prospect of buying a new home was anything but certain. The couple was paying down a significant amount of debt at the time, and David worried that larger mortgage payments could sink them. Worse still, if the couple couldn't sell their current home before closing on the new one, they risked having to pay two mortgages.

There was, however, an added incentive for buying a new home -- the 2010 homebuyer tax credit. The federally funded program provided a tax credit of $6,500 to repeat buyers and $8,000 to first-timers. The only catch? Buyers had to have their signed purchase offer in by April 30. The couple had just over a month to not only sell their home, but also find a new house and finalize an offer.

Undeterred, Robin convinced her husband that they should at least list their current home on the market. As luck would have it, her determination paid off in spades.

"We put the house on the market on March 15 and had an offer 8 days later," she says. "The buyer had no contingencies and didn't ask for any closing costs, so we had a clear shot to get out of the house without any problems."

The couple had cleared the biggest hurdle that repeat buyers face, but with just two weeks left before the cutoff date, they hadn't even begun to consider new homes.

"We just knew we had to keep our momentum going in order to meet our deadline," Robin says, so she enlisted the help of a real estate agent and scheduled home viewings for every night of the week. And after several nerve-racking days of last-minute searching, she found a three-bedroom in the scenic village of Hilton, just 20 minutes from Rochester.

"We took a drive out here and it was rolling green farmlands and little villages dotting the landscape," she says. "We just loved the picture that it painted and thought it would be a great place to raise a family."

They placed an offer on the home and hoped for the best.

Just seven days before the deadline, the seller's broker called to tell them that their offer was accepted. In just a month's time, Robin and her family had blown through the entire homebuying process.

"The biggest lesson we learned in all of this is being open to opportunity, being willing to take a risk, and being a little bit of a pit bull in terms of getting what you want," she says. "We did our research, we made sure the time was right, and we found the house of our dreams."

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Originally published