The first-time home-buyer tax credit is due to expire at the end of the month, and it’s producing a frenzy. More data released by the National Association of Realtors on Friday shows the highest pending home sales level since December 2006, having already risen for eight consecutive months–the longest streak since the index came out in 2001–and the most significant year-on-year jump in activity on record: compared to September 2008, the pending home sales index rose 21.2 percent this September.
Compared to August this year, the index rose 6.1 percent to 110.1 this September. It’s not all good news, of course: For one thing, the index fell in the Northeast month-to-month by two percent, although it’s still 16.9 percent higher than September 2008.
The most significant gains were in the West–10.2 percent–and the Midwest–8.1 percent. Analysts are also cautious about the expiration of the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit, which many say will lead to yet another slump in sales activity, although many suspects that the credit may be extended to continue the government’s stimulus. However, the index is based on contracts signed in September, and there is a one- to two-month-long lag between a signed contract and a completed deals, so the index is inflated by an increasing number of short sales, which may not result in actual sales due to sellers walking away from unsatisfying appraisals, according to the Financial Times.
To cap the sour facts off, while resales jumped 9.4 percent in September, new home sales dropped for the first time in six months. That said, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said, “Home values will stabilize sooner rather than over-correcting. That, in turn, will mean wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families and lay the foundation for a durable economic recovery.” Yun also estimates that 3 million renters are now “financially well-qualified to buy a median-priced home.”
The bit of bright news is that Congress is expected to move ahead with extending the credit, with some Representatives shooting for actually expanding the stimulus package by adding a further $6,500 credit for second-home buyers as long as they have resided in their previous home for at least five years, according to the Associated Press.