Real estate officials reflect on great first half, uncertain second

By MATT OLBERDING / Lincoln Journal Star

The federal homebuyer tax credits helped propel local home sales in the first half of the year to their highest level in three years.

According to figures released last week from the Realtors Association of Lincoln, there had been 2,001 home sales through the local Multiple Listing System as of June 30.

That’s a more than 13 percent increase over the same period in 2009 and the most since there were more than 2,100 sales in the first half of 2007.

Sales of new homes, which have been a drag on the market for several years, were up even more.

For the year, sales of new homes are up more than 40 percent after increasing nearly 150 percent in June.

Despite the good news, most signs point to a slowdown in the second half of the year.

For the second straight month in June, pending sales – sales that are under contract but have not yet closed – were way down compared with last year.

“As expected, there was a reduction in the number of pending home sales in June, compared to those in June of 2009, due to the April 30 Homebuyer’s Tax Credit deadline,” said Nicole Jensen, executive vice president of the Realtors Association.

The tax credit, which offered $8,000 to new buyers and $6,500 to repeat buyers, expired at the end of April.

Despite continuing closings of sales related to the tax credits, sales of existing homes in June were actually down compared with June of last year – 370 to 396.

“We definitely foresee that the volume of home sales are going to curtail and are going to curtail pretty quickly,” said Kent Thompson, the elected president of the Realtors Association.

Still, Thompson stands by an earlier prediction he made that home sales will be up overall for the year.

“I think that Realtors, as a whole, will have a good year this year,” he said.

Mike Rezac, owner of Rezac Construction and president of the Homebuilders Association of Lincoln, is not as optimistic.

Despite the spike in sales of new homes, permits so far this year are down slightly compared with where they were at this time last year.

While that may not sound so bad, Rezac points out that last year was a 29-year low.

“I don’t see this being a terribly strong year,” he said. “We’re really holding out for next year.”

Not everybody is looking at the market with skpticism, though.

Rita Dinger, a real estate agent for Woods Bros. Realty, says she’s been plenty busy since the tax credits expired.

“I’m having one of the busiest Julys I’ve ever had,” she said.

Dinger said she thinks that all the incentives did was push people to buy a home earlier than they would have otherwise.

And she’s not convinced yet that the slowdown is anything more than typical late summer seasonal drop-off.

There are plenty of people still considering buying a home, Dinger said.

“They’re looking for all the reasons that people have always looked.”

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