Incentives provide fuel to April housing market
Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010 12:22 pm
By: The Associated Press
The Messenger 05.24.10
By ALAN ZIBEL
AP Real Estate Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of previously occupied homes likely rose 5.2 percent in April as government incentives provided temporary fuel to the housing market.
Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast the National Association of Realtors will say sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.63 million, up from 5.35 million in March. The report was scheduled for release this morning.
The federal government provided a big boost to home sales this spring by offering first-time buyers a tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase price, up to $8,000. There’s also a credit of 10 percent, up to a maximum of $6,500, for homeowners who want to upgrade.
The deadline to get a signed sales contract and still qualify for either credit was April 30. Buyers have until the end of June to complete their sales.
The tax credit’s impact is likely to show up in the home sales report for several months because it measures completed sales rather than sales contracts.
But the fate of the housing market for the rest of the year is uncertain. Without the tax credit, mortgage applications to purchase homes fell to the lowest level in 13 years last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
If sales don’t pick up, prices could slump as well, especially as more foreclosed homes hit the market.
Real estate agents say there is enough demand to keep the market chugging. Prices have fallen dramatically since the boom years — as much as 50 percent in some places.
“The tax credit was a nice incentive. Maybe it pushed people off the fence, but also the key driver of their thinking is affordability,” said Dominick Prevete, regional vice president for the northern New Jersey market at Weichert Realtors.
The first-time buyer’s credit spurred far more sales than the one for current homeowners, real estate agents say.
That’s partly because many homeowners have seen the value of their properties sink dramatically and are reluctant to sell.
Also, a shaky economy and uncertain job prospects are making many consumers more cautious about moving to larger homes.
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