Mississippi REALTORS® launch FirstHomeMS.org to promote homeownership

At a press conference June 9, Mississippi REALTORS® President David Griffith unveiled FirstHomeMS.org, a new website launched to promote homeownership and first-time homebuyers savings accounts.

About 100 REALTORS®, bankers, mortgage lenders and other stakeholders attended the event to hear about the website and the new state program.

FirstHomeMS.org was created to raise awareness about first-time homebuyers savings accounts, the new tax-advantaged savings program signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this year.

“First-time Homebuyer Savings Accounts are a great opportunity to put more of our citizens on the path to homeownership, while also creating economic growth,” Bryant said in a written statement. “We want shipbuilders in Pascagoula, Nissan workers in Canton, FedEx employees in Southaven, and all of our hard-working Mississippians to live the American dream. I can’t think of any better place for that to become a reality than in the Magnolia state. With these First-time Homebuyer Savings Accounts, the American dream is within reach for more Mississippians.”

The program allows individual Mississippians who have never owned or purchased a home to deduct up to $2,500 from their state adjusted gross income annually by establishing a designated First-time Home Buyer Savings Account. Couples can deduct up to $5,000.

There is no cap on how long or how much money they can save. Interest earned on the deposits also grows free from state income tax.

Mississippians can begin taking the deductions in the 2018 tax year.

“As REALTORS®, we know that one of the biggest hurdles for first-time buyers is finding money for a downpayment,” Griffith said during the press conference. “This new program is a product of what happens when we work together to find creative solutions to encourage economic growth.”

As a bill, the first-time homebuyer savings account program received nearly unanimous support in both houses.

“Through the hard work of legislators and the Mississippi Association of REALTORS®, this new program will strengthen communities by increasing the number of homeowners across the state,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in a written statement.

According to research commissioned by MS REALTORS®, the program will enable nearly 7,600 new first-time buyers to enter the market over five years. In addition to neighborhood stability, new homeowners spend about $1,800 more in their communities annually than renters. And, as more buyers enter the market, about 379 new homes will be built to keep up with demand, the research by Lisa Sturtevant and Urban Analytics revealed.

“The House unanimously agreed that, by enabling first-time homebuyers to create a savings account, the path to the American dream of owning a home is one that can be a reality for more people. Owning a home contributes immensely to a person’s self-worth and self-esteem, and the House is proud to have supported this measure. Furthermore, we are hopeful that this effort spurs the economy with the construction of new homes to meet demands,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in a written statement.

First-time homebuyer savings accounts can be created at any financial institution licensed to do business in Mississippi. Individual account holders are responsible for maintaining the funds in a separate account and reporting to the Department of Revenue.

The deposits can be used for a downpayment and closing costs on a purchase of single-family home in Mississippi. Unqualified withdrawal and use of the funds is penalized 10 percent and taxed as gross income.

Griffith said the cooperation among state lawmakers, financial institutions and REALTORS® has created a path to homeownership.

“And it’s not a long path. The average Mississippian can save for a three percent down payment in about 18 months,” he said.

The goal of the MS REALTORS® is to make the savings program a household name in Mississippi, Griffith said. FirstHomeMS.org provides a venue to connect consumers with financial institutions, property professionals and resources to help them on the path to homeownership.

June marks National Homeownership Month, which recognizes the value of homeownership to individuals, communities and the economy, Griffith said.

“Homeowners vote, volunteer and contribute more to their neighborhoods. Homeowners provide community stability, which reduces crime and supports neighborhood upkeep. Homeowners also drive economic growth,” he said.

MS REALTORS® will continue to promote the program through the website and have a statewide media buy planned for 2018 to get in front of all Mississippians, he said.

“Our state leadership has given us a great opportunity. As REALTORS®, we have to champion the program in our communities. We have to engage our financial partners, homebuilders, media allies and other stakeholders,” Griffith said. “We’re all in this together. Together we can lead the state toward economic growth. And it all starts with homeownership.”
 About Mississippi REALTORS®                             

Mississippi REALTORS® is the business advocate for Mississippi real estate professionals, representing more than 5,800 residential and commercial real estate professionals active in all phases of brokerage, development, property management and appraisal.

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REALTOR® is a registered trademark which identifies a professional in real estate who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®.

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