Homebuyer credit not as big a pull as second deadline looms

QUICKREAD

WHO QUALIFIES FOR HOMEBUYER TAX CREDITS?

First-time homebuyer tax credit: Singles must have a personal income of $125,000 or less and married people must have a family income of $225,000 or less to qualify, cannot be listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax form, and must close on a house between Jan. 1, 2010, and April 30, 2010, to qualify for a refund of $8,000 or 10 percent of the home’s value, whichever is less.

Repeat homebuyers tax credit: Same income parameters and time frame for closing as the first-time buyer credit, but the refund is $6,500 or 10 percent of the home’s value, whichever is less.



A first-time homebuyer tax credit that stirred interest and sales when it was introduced last year isn’t causing as much fuss in its second installment, according to local real estate agents.

The tax credit, which offers up to $8,000 to qualifying buyers purchasing their first home, was set to expire last November, but was extended to anyone who closes on a home before April 30.

A $6,500 tax credit for people who have lived in their home five consecutive years in the past eight years will also last through the end of the month.

While real estate agents said interest in residential real estate increased last fall because of the credit, many aren’t seeing the same enthusiasm this time around.

Judy Duncan with Panorama Real Estate/Metro Brokers Grand Junction Inc. said March was one of her best sales months “in a long time.” But none of the people she worked with on sales said they were motivated by the tax credit.

“It was just timing,” she said. “The first time, I got buyers based on that (tax credit). This time, it didn’t seem to matter as much.”

Duncan and Century 21 Homestead Realty real estate agent Amy Moore agreed they aren’t worried the dip in interest in the tax credit will mean a dip in real estate shopping this month.

Moore said she expects sales numbers to rise beyond the credit’s expiration and into the summer.

“People realize they can’t stay frozen,” Moore said. “Now that the lenders understand their new regulations better, I think they’re not as fearful to work with a buyer on a loan. Buyers are able to get the money a little bit easier and able to take advantage of prices.”

Colorado Association of Realtors data released this week shows the median price of a home sold in the city dropped to $191,333 in February. The median price hasn’t dipped below this level in Grand Junction since September 2006, when the median home sale price was $181,167.

While prices have dropped, sales have risen. In February, 123 homes sold in Grand Junction, up from 99 sales in January and 110 sales in February 2009.

As for the rental market, nothing much has changed since the fourth quarter of 2009, according to Lori Rosendahl, operations director for the Grand Junction Housing Authority.

Vacancy rates appear to have stayed constant, she said, but rent prices have come down slightly.

The housing authority rents and offers rental vouchers to those in need. Rosendahl said the authority has accepted about 175 applications for housing vouchers each month recently, and about 30 percent of the applicants listed themselves as homeless.

The authority was able to offer assistance to 200 families on its waiting list last month because of additional financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It was the first time anyone came off the waiting list for help since October 2008. The list still has 2,314 names on it.

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