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Short on real estate down payment? Use your IRA

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CORRECTION: The original version of this column contained an error that has been corrected. For the purposes of individual retirement accounts, individuals are considered first-time homebuyers if the individual or the individual's spouse did not own a principal residence at any time during the previous two years. With the much stricter loan qualification standards in effect today compared to times past, borrowers are often required to put down at least 20 percent of the purchase price to obtain a home loan. There are lots of people who would like to purchase a home in these times of low interest rates but can't come up with the down payment. Fortunately, first-time homebuyers who have IRAs (individual retirement accounts) may have more money available for a down payment than they realize. Ordinarily, the money in an IRA can't be withdrawn before age 59.5 without incurring a 10 percent income tax penalty. However, there is a special exemption for first-time homebuyers. They can withdr...