Monday, December 21, 2009

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: Lot to Show for Tax Credit; More House Hunters Look During Holidays

Archana Ailawadhi wants to buy a house or condo in time to qualify for the $8,000 first-time home buyers’ tax credit—and won’t let the holidays stand in her way. “I can’t stop now, because I’m knee-deep in (house hunting),” said Ailawadhi, a school guidance counselor who’s made offers on four distressed HUD homes over the past year but keeps getting outbid.

Experts say the Massachusetts housing market could skip its traditional post-Thanksgiving slowdown this year as house hunters such as Ailawadhi hustle to meet the tax credit’s April 30 deadline. “I think (the credit) will keep the momentum going and kind of boost the startup of the spring market,” said Gary Rogers, a Waltham real estate agent and president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors®.

Bay State housing normally slips into low gear between Thanksgiving and February or March as bad weather and holiday commitments push many consumers to the sidelines. For instance, sellers had just 35,815 houses and condos listed on the MLS Property Information Network last December—way down from the 50,705 units up for sale that June. “Buyers don’t want to look at homes in snowstorms and sellers don’t want to show homes and have mud and snow tracked in,” Rogers said. However, a recent extension of the popular home buyers’ tax credit could change things this year.

Adopted by Congress in February in a bid to boost housing, the tax break was supposed to expire Nov. 30, but got a last-minute reprieve from lawmakers. First-time home buyers can now qualify for credits as long as they sign purchase-and-sale agreements by April 30. Lawmakers even expanded the program by adding up to $6,500 credits for non-first-time buyers. Few expect Congress to extend the program further, so Rogers believes many would-be purchasers will cut deals before the new deadline expires. “People will say: `Wow, we have a second bite of the apple here. We shouldn’t screw it up,’” the MAR president said. Randolph broker Todd Sandler expects most or all of his firm’s roughly 35 active listings to stay on the market this winter, and even foresees adding some new ones. “There’s definitely more inventory coming on the market right now than you would see traditionally coming into a holiday season,” he said. “I think (buyer’s) agents are telling clients: `We’ve got to get deals done between now and April 30. There’s no time to wait.’”

House hunter Ailawadhi agrees. “It’s really exciting to me that they extended the tax credit,” she said, “but the pressure’s still on to meet that April 30 deadline.” December 7, 2009

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