Home Buyer Tax Credit Called Effective

Calculating how much the home buyer tax credits cost is an inexact science. At least one analytical firm has concluded that home prices would have fallen 10 percent further without them.

But the cost of propping up prices was significant. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the three credits combined probably resulted in tax revenue losses of about $22 billion through 2019.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about 1 million buyers claimed $7.3 billion in interest-free loans under the first credit. These loans must be repaid starting in 2011. Another 2.3 million people claimed $16.2 billion in tax credits that don’t have to be repaid and the IRS is still processing these claims through the 2011 tax filing.

Source: United Feature Syndicate, Lew Sichelman (12/26/2010)

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NAR Lauds Proposal to Extend Tax-Credit Closings

The National Association of REALTORS® today expressed thanks on behalf of America’s homebuyers to three Senators for introducing a measure to extend the present home buyer tax credit closing deadline to Sept. 30. They are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

“As the leading advocate for homeownership and housing issues, NAR commends these Senators for their attentiveness and sensitivity to thousands of qualified home purchasers, who through no fault of their own, are not able to meet the closing deadline of June 30 for the home buyer tax credit. Now we urge the Senate and the House to act quickly to pass this legislation and ease the minds and pocketbooks of these home buyers,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder.

The measure was offered as an amendment to H.R. 4213, a tax extension bill now in the Senate.

NAR estimates that approximately 75,000 home buyers of distressed properties who have qualified for the tax credit and met the contract deadline of April 30 would not be able to close their transaction by the June 30 closing deadline. REALTORS® have reported as many as one-third of qualified applicants have been notified by lenders that their mortgages will not close before June 30 due to the sheer volume of applications in the pipeline.

“These are not buyers who just entered into the market. These are buyers who previously met all the qualifications for the tax credit, but find themselves at the mercy of a work-flow jam with the lenders or other delays and might not be able to complete the purchase of their homes,” said Golder. “It would be a tragedy for them not to be able to complete the purchase in time to claim the credit.”

Golder said she also wanted to make this clear: “This amendment does not extend the deadline for home buyers to qualify for the tax credit; it extends the deadline for closing the transaction, from June 30 to Sept. 30. Since these applications were already in the pipeline and figured into the program’s cost, the extension of the closing deadline should not incur any further government costs.”

-NAR

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Tax Credit a Mismatch With Buyers’ Schedules

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson testified before the Senate Finance Committee that assigning the IRS to run the home buyer tax credit program was a bad decision.

Tax filing and the rebate plan don’t mesh because most people need the money at the time they close or shortly thereafter. “Most people don’t close on their houses on April 15,” Olson told the committee.

Whether or not the program should be run by the IRS is immaterial, said Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat. The IRS should step up the get the job done, he said.

Meanwhile, claiming the home buyer credit appears to be a great way to trigger an audit. About 20 percent of all IRS examinations handled via the mail in the last six months were done on people who claimed the credit, Olson testified.

Source: Associated Press, Stephen Ohlemacher (04/15/2010)

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California Extends Home Buyer Tax Credit

California has re-established and extended a $10,000 home buyer tax credit, allocating $200 million to the credit for homes purchased between May 1 and Dec. 31, and between Dec. 31 and Aug. 1, 2011.

Steve Goddard, president of the California Association of REALTORS®, said the tax credit will help create incentive for first-time home buyers to purchase abandoned and foreclosed homes. “It is these homes that will require substantial rehabilitation by the new owners, which will in turn generate a tremendous increase in jobs and accessory purchases connected to home improvement activities,” Goddard said.

The credit will be split between first-time buyers and buyers who have lived in their home for at least two years.

“The tax credit will help push prospective buyers off the fence, clear out inventory, and jump-start the homebuilding industry, which will help create jobs and reinvigorate the state’s economy,” said Liz Snow, CEO and president of the California Building Industry Association, in a statement.

Source: Inman News (03/25/2010)

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Pending Home Sales Stabilize

Pending home sales have leveled from a market swing driven by response to the home buyer tax credit, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in December, increased 1 percent to 96.6 from 95.6 in November, and remains 10.9 percent above December 2008 when it was 87.1.

In November, the monthly index had fallen by 16.4 percent from surging activity in preceding months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says it’s important to recognize how the tax credit is skewing market data.

“There are easily understood swings in contract activity as buyers respond to a tax credit that was expiring and was then extended and expanded,” he says. “These swings are masking the underlying trend, which is a broad improvement over year-ago levels.”

December activity was the fifth highest monthly tally in two years.

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Pending Home Sales Stabilize

Pending home sales have leveled from a market swing driven by response to the home buyer tax credit, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in December, increased 1 percent to 96.6 from 95.6 in November, and remains 10.9 percent above December 2008 when it was 87.1.

In November, the monthly index had fallen by 16.4 percent from surging activity in preceding months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says it’s important to recognize how the tax credit is skewing market data.

“There are easily understood swings in contract activity as buyers respond to a tax credit that was expiring and was then extended and expanded,” he says. “These swings are masking the underlying trend, which is a broad improvement over year-ago levels.”

December activity was the fifth highest monthly tally in two years.

The Tax Credit Impact

Buyers who have a contract in place to purchase a primary residence by April 30, 2010, have until June 30, 2010, to finalize the transaction to qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers.

Yun projects the extended and expanded tax credit will encourage 2.4 million households to take the credit in 2010.

“While new-home sales will remain low due to a lack of construction, existing-home sales are projected to rise to around 5.6 million in 2010,” Yun says. Last year there were 5.16 million existing-home sales.

He added that one of the greatest benefits of rising sales will be firming home prices.

“For several months now we’ve been seeing stabilization in all of the home price measures as inventory is pulled down,” Yun says. “As a result, the housing wealth for many middle class families has begun to stabilize.”

Regional Data

Here’s a breakdown by region for the PHSI:

* Northeast: rose 2.3 percent to 76.1 in December and is 14.9 percent higher than December 2008.
* Midwest: increased 5.2 percent to 86.9 and is 8.7 percent above a year ago.
* South: rose 2.2 percent to an index of 98.4, and are 5.5 percent higher than December 2008.
* West: fell 3.8 percent to 119.9 but is 18.6 percent above a year ago.

—NAR

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Misuse of Home Buyer Tax Credit Reported

A report earlier this month from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimates that 73,799 taxpayers have incorrectly claimed the first-time home buyer tax credit. The report concludes: “The IRS is unable to verify eligibility for the majority of Recovery Act benefits at the time a tax return is processed.”

The IRS didn’t dispute the claim, but said it was studying the matter further. Some have suggested that this report and others will encourage Congress to put some safeguards in place before more claims result from the extension and expansion of the tax credit.

Source: The New York Times, Lynnley Browning (12/22/2009)

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Existing-Home Sales Record Big Gains

Driven by the home buyer tax credit, existing-home sales showed another big gain in October with a strong uptrend established over the past seven months, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. At the same time, inventories have continued to decline.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—surged 10.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units in October from a downwardly revised pace of 5.54 million in September, and are 23.5 percent above the 4.94 million-unit level in October 2008. Sales activity is at the highest pace since February 2007 when it hit 6.55 million.

Tax Credit Fuels Surge

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, was surprised at the size of the gain. “Many buyers have been rushing to beat the deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, and similarly robust sales may be occurring in November,” he said. “With such a sale spike, a measurable decline should be anticipated in December and early next year before another surge in spring and early summer.”  Full Details…

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Existing-Home Sales Record Big Gains

Driven by the home buyer tax credit, existing-home sales showed another big gain in October with a strong uptrend established over the past seven months, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. At the same time, inventories have continued to decline.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—surged 10.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units in October from a downwardly revised pace of 5.54 million in September, and are 23.5 percent above the 4.94 million-unit level in October 2008. Sales activity is at the highest pace since February 2007 when it hit 6.55 million.

Tax Credit Fuels Surge

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, was surprised at the size of the gain. “Many buyers have been rushing to beat the deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, and similarly robust sales may be occurring in November,” he said. “With such a sale spike, a measurable decline should be anticipated in December and early next year before another surge in spring and early summer.”

Now that the tax credit has been extended and expanded, potential buyers have until April 30 to have a contract in place. “There is still a large pent-up demand that can be tapped before the tax credit expires. Our recent consumer survey further shows that 13 percent of successful first-time buyers had a previous contract that was cancelled or fell through—there likely are many more buyers who were attempting to purchase but simply ran out of time,” Yun said.

Historically low interest rates also are boosting the market. “Mortgage interest rates last month were the third lowest on record dating back to 1971,” Yun noted. According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.95 percent in October from 5.06 percent in September; the rate was 6.20 percent in October 2008. Last week, Freddie Mac reporter the 30-year rate dropped to 4.83 percent.

Inventory Declines

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said strong demand by first-time buyers is creating some unusual conditions. “In parts of the country, especially in Southwestern states but also in Florida and suburban Washington D.C., we’ve been getting many reports of multiple bids in the lower price ranges with foreclosed properties getting absorbed quickly,” she said.

“In fact, low-end inventory has become very tight in many areas and in some cases buyers are becoming more aggressive. In this kind of environment it’s important to work with a REALTOR® who can walk you through the process and help you negotiate a satisfactory deal,” Golder said.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.7 percent to 3.57 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 8.0-month supply in September. Unsold inventory totals are 14.9 percent below a year ago.

“The supply of homes on the market is now at the lowest level in over two-and-a half years – we’re getting closer to a general balance between buyers and sellers,” Yun said. The last time the relative housing inventory was this low was in February 2007 when it also was at a 7.0-month supply.

Existing Home Price by Type

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,100 in October, down 7.1 percent from October 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 30 percent of sales in October, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they usually sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

“In the second half of 2010, if home values show consistent stabilization or even a modest increase, then home sales could remain at normal healthy levels because consumers would no longer be worried about a price overcorrection,” Yun said.

He added that low home prices also are contributing to extremely favorable affordability conditions. “With the abnormal drop in home prices over the past few years, the price-to-income ratio has fallen below the historic trend line,” Yun said. “This is adding to the buying power of the typical family, with affordability conditions this year at the highest on record dating back to 1970, but prices are beginning to flatten and are poised to rise next year.”

Single-family home sales rose 9.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in October from a pace of 4.86 million in September, and are 21.4 percent above the 4.39 million-unit pace in October 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $173,100 in October, down 6.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales surged 13.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 units in October from 680,000 in September, and are 40.8 percent above the 547,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $172,900 in October, which is 10.4 percent below October 2008.

Regional Views

Here’s a look at existing-home sales figures in different regions of the United States:

Northeast: Existing-home sales rose 11.6 percent to an annual level of 1.06 million in October, and are 27.7 percent higher than October 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $235,400, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.

Midwest: Existing-home sales surged 14.4 percent in October to a pace of 1.43 million and are 28.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $146,600, a gain of 1.1 percent from October 2008.

South: Existing-home sales rose 12.7 percent to an annual level of 2.30 million in October and are 25.7 percent higher than October 2008. The median price in the South was $151,100, down 6.3 percent from a year ago.

West: Existing-home sales increased 1.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.31 million in October and are 12.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $220,200, which is 14.7 percent below October 2008.

—NAR

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NAR: Tax Credit Best for Sustaining Housing Recovery

The best available tool for sustaining the still-fragile housing market is the $8,000 home buyer tax credit, and it is essential that Congress extend the credit into 2010, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® testified at a hearing of the U.S. House Small Business Committee today.

The tax credit expires November 30.

NAR Regional Vice President Joseph L. Canfora, a broker-owner with Century 21 Selmar Realty in East Islip, N.Y., also told the panel that a major stumbling block for consumers has been the implementation of appraisal processes spurred by the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which is causing delays in closings, as well as cancelled sales that led to artificially low existing-home sales numbers for August, reported last month.

“The credit is working,” Canfora said, pointing out that the 355,000 to 400,000 transactions directly attributable to the credit made a significant dent in the housing inventory and will help to stabilize home prices. Further, the credit has provided a huge indirect benefit to local governments, shoring up property tax bases in particularly hard-hit areas.

Further, NAR data has estimated that every home purchase pumps into the recovering economy about $63,000 – the equivalent of one new job added to the employment figures.

But, Canfora said, the threat of more foreclosures coming to the market caused by mortgage rate resets, job losses, and by lender’s unburdening themselves of additional properties to take advantage of today’s more stabilized prices could disrupt the fragile recovery.

In a “normal” market, optimal housing inventory is about six to seven months, he said. When the tax credit was enacted in February, inventory was 9.1 months. Because of the spurt in homes sales since then due to the tax credit, inventory declined to 8.2 months in August, closer to “normal” than at any time since 2007.

In urging Congress to extend the credit, Canfora said, “The more robust the credit and the greater its duration, the greater the chance that the housing market can perform its traditional role of helping the economy move out of a recession.

“But problems arising from the implementation of the HVCC may reverse the market’s positive momentum at a time when the real estate industry is just starting to show signs of a rebound in many markets,” Canfora said. According to an NAR survey of its members, approximately 40 percent of Realtors® report having lost at least one sale since May 1 because of appraisal problems due to the HVCC rules. Twenty percent say they have lost more than one sale.

The culprit, he said, was that appraisal management companies, which have gained prominence because of the HVCC, have assigned appraisers to areas where they lack geographic competence. That has resulted in unreliable appraisals. It is not uncommon that second and third appraisals have to be done to ascertain fair market value. Appraisal fees have also risen and are being passed on to consumers.

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued guidance on appraisals, but NAR is calling upon the mortgage giants and the Federal Housing Administration to issue a consolidated guidance that should be codified and incorporated into the existing policy to ensure proper information on appraisals is available to the real estate industry.

FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens has asked FHA staff to explore that recommendation with Fannie and Freddie. Last month, Stevens reaffirmed FHA appraisal policy, taking into consideration the unintended consequences that have burdened Fannie and Freddie, and issued two Mortgagee Letters focusing on appraisal changes. The policy reaffirms appraiser independence and geographic competence.

The FHA announcement also included timely steps to protect taxpayers: implementing credit policy changes to enhance risk management; hiring a chief risk officer for the first time in the agency’s history; and shifting responsibility for mortgage brokers away from taxpayers to the lenders who use mortgage brokers.

Canfora told the committee that FHA has performed remarkably well through the housing crises, compared to Fannie and Freddie. “That’s because FHA has never strayed from the sound underwriting and appropriate appraisals that have traditionally backed up their loans.”

“The reason the FHA capital reserve ratio fell below 2 percent had nothing to do with FHA’s current business activities. It is simply a reflection of falling housing values in their portfolio.” He cited an FHA announcement that a 2009 audit will show that even if FHA does nothing, the cap reserves are expected to rise back to that required level within a few years. He also pointed out that FHA total reserves are not in as dire straits as some have reported since the cap reserve fund is not the only FHA reserve fund – FHA also has a separate cash reserve that is higher that it has even been – and the combined assets total $30.4 billion.

Source: NAR

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Aides: Home Buyer Tax Credit Likely to Win Extension

Extending the First-Time Home Buyers Tax Credit, due to expire at the end of November, is high on the Democratic Congressional to-do list, legislative aides said.

After Wednesday’s meeting with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released a statement that the government should “continue efforts to strengthen the housing market by extending the home buyer tax credit.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, who is a consultant to Democrats in the administration and Congress, is advocating extending the credit through August and making it available to all home buyers. He said failure to extend the credit just as more foreclosures enter the market will push housing prices down.

Also, on Thursday, the House is expected pass legislation to extend the credit through 2010 for people who have been out of the country in the military, intelligence, or foreign services.

Source: The New York Times, Jackie Calmes (10/07/2009)

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NAR: Tax Credit Best for Sustaining Housing Recovery

The best available tool for sustaining the still-fragile housing market is the $8,000 home buyer tax credit, and it is essential that Congress extend the credit into 2010, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® testified at a hearing of the U.S. House Small Business Committee today.

The tax credit expires November 30.

NAR Regional Vice President Joseph L. Canfora, a broker-owner with Century 21 Selmar Realty in East Islip, N.Y., also told the panel that a major stumbling block for consumers has been the implementation of appraisal processes spurred by the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which is causing delays in closings, as well as cancelled sales that led to artificially low existing-home sales numbers for August, reported last month.

“The credit is working,” Canfora said, pointing out that the 355,000 to 400,000 transactions directly attributable to the credit made a significant dent in the housing inventory and will help to stabilize home prices. Further, the credit has provided a huge indirect benefit to local governments, shoring up property tax bases in particularly hard-hit areas.


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