Since passed by overwhelming Capitol Hill majorities in January, there has been much talk regarding the economic stimulus package. Yes, it will cost $168 billion, but what does it actually do for individuals?

The stimulus package is designed to help the country moderate the worst effects of a slowing economy and perhaps even avoid a recession. The idea is to encourage spending and with more spending to increase economic activity. While the theory looks good on paper, it will likely take months or years to know if it actually works.

From a personal perspective the January stimulus package has five major components that will immediately impact individuals with an interest in real estate.

1. Checks from Uncle Sam: According to the White House, taxpayers can receive rebates of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples. A minimum of $300 per person and $600 per couple will be available to those with at least $3,000 of earned income. This relief will be available to everyone with adjusted gross income less than $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. The rebates will be phased out for taxpayers above those income thresholds.

2. Additional rebates will be mailed out for those with children. Everyone eligible for a rebate would also receive an additional $300 per child. For example, this would mean up to $1,800 of tax relief for an eligible couple with two children.

3. Reduced Income Taxes for Low-Income Wage Earners: The legislation says that 2008 taxes will be eliminated on the first $6,000 of taxable income for individual taxpayers and the first $12,000 of taxable income for couples. The tax rate used to be 10 percent on such income.

4. FHA mortgage loan limits will more than double in some cases. The usual limit in high-cost areas in the lower 48 states will rise from $362,790 to $729,750. Such financing allows buyer to purchase homes with 3 percent down.

5. Conventional loan limits will increase. The maximum size of a "conforming" loan will go from $417,000 to $729,750.

While the benefits for individuals look good, there are some caveats to consider.

First, those rebate checks are a one-time deal. While the government hopes that individuals will use the money for spending, many recipients will use the cash to pay down debts. Paying off bills can be a good use of your cash because it can mean lower monthly costs and better credit scores, thus lowering interest costs when you borrow to finance a home or car.

Second, if you want to buy or refinance with the new class of "conventional jumbo" mortgages, be aware that the FHA and conventional loan limits have only been raised for 2008. It's possible that the old limits will be reinstated in January 2009, so if you want a larger mortgage start planning now.

Third, while the conventional loan limit applies nationwide, the maximum amount you can borrow under the FHA program varies by location. In other words, the biggest loans will not be available everywhere. For specifics regarding your area, please speak with a mortgage counselor.