Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Not Much Impact from Repeat Buyer Credit

From Google News:

It sounded like a great idea three months ago: Hand homeowners a $6,500 tax credit to find a new place to live, giving a thrust of energy to the housing market's recovery.

So far, people are staying put.

In November, the federal government extended a tax credit of up to $8,000 for people who hadn't owned a home for three years. This credit had helped boost home sales last summer and fall. Seeking to build on that momentum, the government added a new credit of up to $6,500 for current homeowners, hoping it would transform them into house-hunters this winter and spring.

But real estate agents around the country say the credit is doing little to elevate sales. Reasons vary.

The unemployment rate is still near 10 percent and consumer confidence is falling. Home prices have stabilized in some markets, but are still a third below their 2006 peak. Droves of people who want to sell are stuck because their home is worth less than they paid for it. Harsh winter weather has Americans shoveling driveways instead of preparing their home for buyer visits.

"No one is saying, `I need to buy something before it expires,'" said Tim Surratt, an agent with Greenwood King Properties in Houston.

The tax credit for current homeowners was intended to help stabilize prices and bolster the economy, but the housing market remains vulnerable. Sales of both new and previously occupied homes dropped in January, and the Mortgage Bankers Association's index of loan applications recently hit a 12 1/2-year low.

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