Local home sales down, but parts of market doing well

Local home sales have fallen behind last year’s pace, after being up for most of this year because of the homebuyer tax credit.

As of Aug. 31, there had been 2,490 home sales through the local Multiple Listing Service, which covers Lancaster and parts of surrounding counties. That’s down more than 5 percent from the same period last year.

Through the first two quarters of the year, home sales were up 13 percent over 2009, but sales have dropped off sharply in July and August, down more than 50 percent compared with the same months last year.

That’s largely because of the expiration of the federal tax credit of $8,000 for new homebuyers and $6,500 for repeat homebuyers. The credit expired at the end of April, and buyers had until the end of June to close those sales.

Despite the sharp drop-off, there are still many positive signs in the local real estate market.

Sales of new homes, which last year eked out their first year-over-year gain since 2003, are up about 6 percent so far this year.

And average sale prices for new and existing homes are up, leading to an overall price increase of more than 2 percent through August.

Realtors Association of Lincoln Executive Vice President Nicole Jensen said in an e-mail last week that those two developments are signs that the market is stable, despite the drop in sales of existing homes.

Another positive sign is the increase in luxury home sales.

HomeServices of Nebraska, which owns Home Real Estate and Woods Bros Realty in Lincoln, said in a news release Wednesday that sales of homes more than $500,000 are up 11 percent this year compared with last.

“Buyers in the upper price brackets are taking advantage of today’s low interest rates,” said Gene Brake, CEO of HomeServices of Nebraska. “They can get more house for less money than they could a couple years ago.”

Mortgage rates have been hovering at historical lows around 4 percent for several months.

Another reason for the jump in high-end home sales is the “move-up” effect.

As new homebuyers used the tax credit to buy lower-priced homes, it allowed the sellers of those homes to “move up” to bigger, more expensive ones.

In an effort to capitalize on the strong demand for higher-end homes, Woods Bros and Home are planning an open house tour of 22 of the more than 60 houses over $500,000 currently on the market.

The tour is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Home Real Estate agent Nelda Hunt said the tour gives people a “nonthreatening, fun opportunity” to see some of the luxury homes available.

“Our inventory of luxury homes really cleared out the end of last year and the beginning of 2010,” Hunt said. “Now we have a new influx of homes on the market that are great values, and we want people to come out and take a look.”

Reach Matt Olberding at 473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.
Copyright Lincoln Journal Star. Read original article here.

Nebraska ranked fourth in Dollar Amount per Resident claimed from the Home Buyer Tax Credits

Did You Know: GAO Initial Report on Home Buyer Tax Credit

By: Arun Barman, Research Economist

  • According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Tax Administration: Usage and Selected Analyses of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, the home buyer tax credit will end up costing tax payers $22 billion.
  • About a third of those claiming the credit were trade-up buyers from the most recent phase of the credit, which allowed repeat buyers in addition to the first time buyers.
  • In terms of states’ participation in the credit, California had the most claims. However, a good way to adjust for population is to look at dollars claimed per resident. See claims chart by state > (PDF: 55KB)
  • Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska say the most dollars for the tax credit claimed per resident.
  • New York, Hawaii, and West Virginia had the least dollars claimed per resident.
  • Read the entire report: Tax Administration: Usage and Selected Analyses of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit (PDF).

This is one in a series of commentaries by the Research staff of the National Association of REALTORS®. Read more commentaries >
Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.

Who’s up for another homebuyer tax credit?

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read that headline this past Monday morning. Yet that’s exactly what HUD secretary Shaun Donovan suggested in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

The idea is so bad it’s hard to know where to begin. Another tax credit is not going to revive a slow housing market. Yes, we saw increased activity in March and April this year, mostly due to the tax credit, but those were buyers who had planned to buy this year anyway. As we saw when the June and July sales numbers came out, we simply cannibalized our summer buyers and moved them forward to spring. We didn’t stimulate anything, and we certainly didn’t create more demand for housing.

Gimmicks like the tax credit will simply delay the inevitable – the housing market isn’t going to recover until buyers are a lot more certain about the economy. I’d suggest with the current crop of suits in Washington, that won’t be anytime soon. We’re blessed with low unemployment here in Lincoln, but people are still scared about losing their jobs. Those people aren’t rushing into the market to buy a house anytime in the near future. Fear causes people to pull back, and buyers are clearly taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. Even interest rates around 4% aren’t enough to get many to jump off the fence and take the plunge.

Our real estate market has been fortunate to avoid the real estate bubble … but if the feds continue trying to ‘help,’ we’re going to feel the impact a lot more than we already have. Another tax credit is a bad idea … which means we should probably expect the sequel sooner rather than later.

Interest rates are low, and buyers definitely have an advantage now. If you’re considering a move, I’d welcome the chance to visit with you!

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.”

Home Buyer Tax Credit, National Flood Insurance both extended through September

From the National Association of Realtors Government Affairs:

After a close brush with the deadline, Congress has passed an extension on the Home Buyer Tax Credit closing deadline, the Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act (HR 5623).

The extension applies only to transactions that have ratified contracts in place as of April 30, 2010 that have not yet closed. The legislation is designed to create a seamless extension. The new closing deadline for eligible transactions is now September 30, 2010. There will be no gap between June 30 and the date the President signs the bill into law.

The National Association of Realtors worked closely with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to enact this important legislation. Extending the Tax Credit Closing deadline will help provide additional stability to real estate markets across the nation.

For additional information on the extension, visit www.realtor.org/government_affairs.

Additionally, the United States Senate has passed the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2010 (HR 5569), extending the National Flood Insurance Program until September 30, 2010. This will allow transactions to move forward. The bill is retroactive and covers the lapse period from June 2, 2010 to the date of enactment of the extension.

For more information on the Flood Insurance Program, visit www.realtor.org/government_affairs.

Woods Bros Realty presents 2010 Spring Jubilee of Homes

JubileeLogo-webWoods Bros Realty is proud to present its 2010 Spring Jubilee of Homes. Over 20 brand-new homes will be open to the public from 1-5 p.m. on April 17-18 and 24-25. Visitors can register at each home for a one-in-four chance to win a Visa® gift card.

This year’s Jubilee occurs during the very end of the $6,500 repeat and $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credits, in which buyers have until April 30 to be under contract and until June 30 to close on the purchase of their new home. Buyers could purchase one of these homes in plenty of time for the tax credit. For those who would prefer to customize their own new home, Woods Bros sales professionals will be on site at each home to help buyers through the process of selecting a builder and a floor plan, all the way through to the closing and moving into a brand-new home.

It’s no secret that today’s new homes save home buyers money on heating and cooling costs. From windows and doors to insulation and roofs, the efficiency standards have increased over time. Some builders go above and beyond when considering energy efficiency. A number of our Spring Jubilee Homes have earned the Energy Star rating.

Compared with standard homes, Energy Star homes meet strict energy efficiency guidelines, delivering hundreds of dollars in annual savings on heating, cooling and water bills. These guidelines also help protect the environment, creating less air pollution, and the Energy Star rating is becoming an important quality when considering reselling your investment.

Click here for a list of new homes in the Spring Jubilee of Homes.

National Open House Weekend April 10-11

woods_natl_open

WHAT: The purpose of this first ever REALTOR® Nationwide Open House event is to increase consumer awareness of the benefits of buying a home, give sellers an opportunity to increase the exposure for their homes for sale, and to make one last effort to help buyers take advantage of the homebuyer tax credits before the April 30, 2010 deadline.

WHO: The REALTOR® Nationwide Open House event is a collaborative effort sponsored by REALTOR® Associations across the nation.

WHERE: Homes will be open all across the city, state and the nation.

WHEN: Saturday & Sunday, April 10-11, 2010

Search more than 700 open houses now!

Leave the Light on Thursdays throughout April

LTLOwebtopperTime is running out for the $6,500 repeat and $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credits, and the government is NOT going to extend the credit. That gives you less than a month to negotiate an accepted offer on a home in order to make the April 30, 2010, deadline, at which point you must close on the purchase by June 30, 2010.

In order to give our customers and clients more opportunities to find the home of their dreams, Woods Bros Realty is holding its “Leave the Light on Thursdays” open houses every Thursday night from 5-7 p.m. throughout the month of April. Search participating homes at www.WoodsBros.com.

First-time buyers need to be focused, realistic

Affordable housing in the Lincoln, NE real estate market is becoming a rare commodity. If you are a first-time buyer in the under $100,000 range who is using FHA/NIFA’s ABC2 program or NeighborWorks First Home program and only need $1,000 to get into a house, here’s the reality of Lincoln’s market: houses that are in good condition and in popular areas are going fairly quickly and we are seeing multiple offers.

There are lots of buyers trying to take advantage of the remaining timeline for the tax credit so keep in mind that you have plenty of competition from your fellow first-time buyers. So, what does this mean? Get focused and get focused fast on what is important.

Don’t be unrealistic in what you can buy for your money, there are no ‘deals’ to be snatched up as so many of those HGTV® shows would have you believe. This is Lincoln, Neb., and our market has remained pretty stable in unstable times. ESPECIALLY in the under $100,000 price range.

Don’t be looking at houses beyond your price range either. Sellers are not going to give away their houses. Once you fall in love with a house outside of your price range, it will be nearly impossible to find one within your price range that will compare. You are just setting yourself up for disappointment. And the seller who had to leave for the showing, well they did so in good faith that you are actually qualified to buy their house–it’s just not right.

Sellers are in the drivers seat in this price range. Don’t think you are going to offer someone $10,000-15,000 less than what a property is listed at and actually think you are going to get your offer accepted.

Be realistic and listen to your real estate professional.

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