Home sales see rush for tax break
By STEPHANIE ARMOUR
After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend and finding a job she loves in Denver, Quinn Kelsey decided last Friday to take advantage of the home buyers' tax credit.
She found a condo she liked in her neighborhood and called a Realtor's office to hire an agent. She got preapproved for a loan in an hour. Early this week, she put in her offer, with just one contingency: It had to be accepted before the tax credit deadline tomorrow.
Her offer was accepted Tuesday night.
Buyers like Kelsey have been in a final sprint for the past week to meet tomorrow's deadline for signing purchase contracts to stay eligible for the tax credit, worth up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers and up to $6,500 for move-up buyers. Many Realtors have been busier than in months past, homes that languished on the market have suddenly gotten offers, and buyers who were sitting on the fence have cobbled together offers in the nick of time.
If a binding sales contract is signed by April 30, home buyers have until June 30 to complete the purchase. The tax credit is projected to have added 2 million first-time buyers in 2009 and be adding another 900,000 in 2010, plus 1.5 million repeat buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Elika Associates, a buyers' brokerage firm in New York, is averaging dozens of inquiries a day from first-time home buyers, preapproved and eager to pull the trigger before tomorrow. With the deadline looming, many are opening up their search to fringe neighborhoods they may have bypassed earlier.
But there can be risks in a rush.
Buyers may be so eager to get the tax credit that they sign a mortgage agreement without really understanding all the terms, caution some experts.
And many buyers are in a mad scramble.
"I've sold more houses in the past 30 days than in the past five years. It is so exciting to see the multiple contracts again. It's what we Realtors live for," says Lisa Stickels in Fairfield, Iowa. "Everyone at the Century 21 where I work is falling over each other to get to the folks who are showing up by the boatload."
Brokers also are seeing an increase in business as buyers try to get under contract in time. "I have seen a spike this week in people scrambling to get preapproved for a mortgage so that they can ... squeeze in before Friday," says Gary Parkes, a broker in Woodstock, Ga.