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There’s never been a better time…

Scott Jagow Aug 19, 2009

Home builders and real estate agents are really pushing the government’s $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit. To take advantage of it, people have to close by November 30th. That means they’d better get moving.

Here’s the deal — the full $8,000 is available to individuals making less than $75,000, double that for joint filers. A lot of people don’t realize you can qualify as long as you haven’t owned a home in the past three years. If you don’t use the entire tax credit, you’ll get the rest by check.

There’s been some talk about extending the credit, but there’s also a lot of resistance in Congress to any new form of stimulus.

Today, the National Association of Home Builders released its housing affordability index, and not surprisingly, said homes are very affordable. It also took the opportunity to make a pitch for extending the credit:

“The increase in affordability — along with the $8,000 federal tax credit for home buyers — is stimulating demand, particularly among young, first-time buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. “But to keep the recent upturn in home sales going into next year, Congress will need to extend the tax credit for another year and make it available to all buyers in an effort to encourage activity in the trade-up market.”

But a lot of people aren’t buying that argument. From Reuters:

Still, distressed prices, plenty of available properties and low borrowing costs should keep housing from falling apart anew once the home buyer credit disappears, said Gregory Miller, chief economist at SunTrust Bank in Atlanta.

“These programs are giving housing a boost,” he said. “When the tax credit expires, the housing market should have even more legs under it” and gain traction on affordability.

“Housing is on a sustainable path,” Miller added. “We have those who wanted to buy before but couldn’t afford the price, and those who would have bought before but couldn’t sell the existing house. Both of those groups are lined up to buy now.”

As long as they’re lined up to buy homes that a. they can afford and b. they can still afford if they have a financial setback. I’m still a little nervous about the job market when it comes to people taking on new loans. Tougher credit standards are supposedly in place, but at the same time, the real estate industry has to be extremely motivated to sell homes at this point.

What do you think? And do we need to further stimulate the market with this credit or let it die?

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