It’s generally understood that the federal homebuyer tax credit pushed some demand for homes forward, as buyers who’d planned to purchase a home later this year moved up their timetables to take advantage of the program.
But the imminent closing of the tax-credit window may also have motivated some sellers to list their homes sooner than they’d planned — if the experience of one Pennsylvania Realtor is any indication.
Odelia Aminov, a Realtor with Keller Williams Real Estate in the Philadelphia suburb of Horsham, was representing a family who’d been planning for months to put their house on the market in June.
The family wanted to relocate to be closer to the husband’s work. But they’d planned on moving out before listing their home in order to get it into pristine shape — a difficult task with two toddlers around.
But on April 11 — the weekend designated by many Realtor associations as Nationwide Open House Weekend — Aminov was holding an open house for another listing in the area.
It was a busy afternoon, and Aminov realized that many buyers were desperate to be under contract by the tax credit’s April 30 deadline, and that there was not enough inventory to meet the demand.
The mother of the family that had planned to list their house in June was in the neighborhood that day, and dropped by the open house, Aminov told Inman News. She told her, "You need to go back to your husband and tell him we need to put the house on the market tomorrow."
Aminov suggested that the family try a two-week, "Nothing to Lose" approach to take advantage of the tax credit.
"Let’s get the house on the market, with the clutter, with the kids and with all the worries HGTV plants in sellers’ heads when it comes to showing standards," Aminov told the family. "What’s the worst that could happen? If this two-week experiment fails, we’re back to original plan."
The house was on the market the next day, and an open house was held a week later. There was a "buzz in the air," Aminov recently recalled on her ActiveRain blog, and two competing offers resulted in a closing above the asking price.
Aminov — who before becoming a Realtor four years ago served as a commander in the Israeli army — said she’s having her best year ever.
"We’re in a suburb of Philadelphia, and for anything below $250,000, it was a seller’s market for about four months, with absolutely not enough supply," Aminov said. "We were seeing a lot of bidding wars — people using addendums, and strategies you’d only use in a seller’s market. For (the last) four months, it was 2005 all over again."
But Aminov wonders whether the strength in her market in the last few months was artificial.
"It’s sort of slowed down in a way — there’s a sense that people who were able to buy did so," she said.
Aminov primarily works with buyers, but is currently representing four local listings.
Horsham-area employers include the University of Pennsylvania and other universities, and the market has escaped some of the price volatility seen in others. Aminov estimated that prices are down 15 percent from peak, and "inching back a little."
"We’re in a strong season right now, but it’s going to be interesting what happens come September," she said. "Mortgage rates are great now, against predictions, but will most likely rise" now that the Federal Reserve has wrapped up its purchases of mortgage-backed securities, Aminov said.
Existing-home sales were up 7.6 percent from March to April, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday, but housing inventory grew by 11.5 percent with homes coming on the market faster than they were sold.
The 4 million for-sale listings on the market represented an 8.4-month supply of homes, NAR said, when many analysts consider six months a better balance between supply and demand.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that the expiration the tax credit means there "there will be some temporary fallback" in the months ahead. But Yun saw no signs of price instability, with median home prices up 4 percent from a year ago, to $173,100.
New single-family houses sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000 during April, the briskest pace since May 2008, according to estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Sales of new homes were up 14.8 percent increase from a revised March rate of 439,000, and the 211,000 new homes estimated to be on the market at the end of the month represented just five months of supply — a seller’s market for the first time since the downturn began.
The median sales price of new houses sold in April 2010 was $198,400, down 9.5 percent from a year ago. At $249,500, the average sales price was down 7.5 percent from a year ago.
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