Senators Differ on Extending Homebuyer Tax Credit

28 10 2009

Top Democrats in the Senate are pressing a plan that would extend a popular tax credit for first-time homebuyers but gradually phase it out through March 31st of next year.

The proposal, by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., would extend the $8,000 tax credit – which expires Nov. 30 – through March 31. Its value would drop by $2,000 for each of the subsequent three quarters of 2010.

The plan, which could face a vote in the Senate this week, appears aimed at countering a far more generous $17 billion bipartisan plan that would extend the $8,000 credit through June 30, 2010, boost the income cap for eligibility and open the credit to all buyers, rather than first-timers.

Senators are maneuvering to add the homebuyer tax credit extension to legislation to extend unemployment benefits by up to 20 weeks.

Supporters say the tax credit has helped revive the housing market and say that if it’s cut off as scheduled at the end of next month, home sales could drop off.

Reid sought to schedule a vote on the competing measures on Monday but was blocked by top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is demanding votes on unrelated GOP proposals.

One such proposal would require people receiving unemployment insurance to be processed through the E-Verify program to prove legal immigration status and would require all federal contractors to use E-Verify. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that employers use to check on the immigration status of new hires.

The Democratic plan also would extend the ability of money-losing businesses to claim refunds on taxes paid during profitable times up to four years ago. All businesses could take advantage of the credit; when passed in February it was limited to smaller companies with annual revenues of $15 million or less.

Source: The Associated Press





Tax Credit Fuels Rise in Florida’s Home and Condo Sales in September

28 10 2009

Florida’s existing home sales rose in September, which marks more than a year (13 months) that sales activity has increased in the year-to-year comparison, according to Florida Realtors. September’s statewide sales also increased over sales activity in August in both the existing home and existing condominium markets.

Existing home sales rose 34 percent last month with a total of 14,419 homes sold statewide compared to 10,778 homes sold in September 2008, according to Florida Realtors. Statewide existing home sales last month increased 4.1 percent over statewide sales activity in August.

Florida Realtors also reported a 77 percent increase in statewide sales of existing condos in September compared to the previous year’s sales figure; statewide existing condo sales last month rose 8.9 percent over the total units sold in August.

All of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing home sales in September; all but one MSA also showed a gain in condo sales. A majority of the state’s MSAs have reported increased sales for 15 consecutive months.

Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $142,000; a year ago, it was $174,900 for a 19 percent decrease. Housing industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in August 2009 was $177,500, down 12.1 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In Massachusetts, the statewide median resales price was $315,000 in August; in California, it was $292,960; in Maryland, it was $265,862; and in New York, it was $205,000.

NAR’s latest industry outlook notes positive signs in the housing sector, but adds that extension of the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit would help sustain a fragile recovery. “Now that the market is showing some momentum, we have an opportunity to achieve a more rapid and broader stabilization in home prices,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. The outlook for home sales and prices depends on whether the tax credit is extended, he said, describing it as “the best tool in our arsenal to encourage financially qualified buyers to stimulate the economy and help reduce the budget deficit.”

In Florida’s year-to-year comparison for condos, 5,088 units sold statewide last month compared to 2,870 units in September 2008 for a 77 percent increase. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $102,500; in September 2008 it was $153,500 for a 33 percent decrease. The national median existing condo price was $179,300 in August 2009, according to NAR.

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.06 percent last month, a significant drop from the average rate of 6.04 percent in September 2008, according to Freddie Mac. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s smaller markets, the Pensacola MSA reported a total of 275 homes sold in September compared to 267 homes a year earlier for a 3 percent increase. The market’s existing home median sales price last month was $135,000; a year ago it was $146,900 for an 8 percent decrease. A total of 48 condos sold in the MSA in September, up 41 percent over the 34 units sold in September 2008. The existing condo median price last month was $190,000; a year earlier, it was $180,000 for a 6 percent gain.

Source: Florida Association of Realtors








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