The Internal Revenue Service defines a first-time homebuyer as someone who has not owned a home in the three years prior to purchase.
The tax credit, for people purchasing a home from Nov. 7, 2009, to April 30, 2010, is generally equal to 10 percent of the home's purchase, up to a maximum of $8,000, and is available to single taxpayers making less than $125,000 or married couples with a combined income of less than $225,000.
If you meet the federal requirements and keep the residence as your primary home for three years, there's no need to pay back the credit.
But if you received a housing credit before Jan. 1, 2009, you have to pay it back.
That credit – up to $7,500 for qualified homebuyers – is more like a 0 percent loan and must be paid back over the course of 15 years in $500 installments. That begins with the 2010 tax return.