Homebuyer Tax Credit Best Tool for Sustaining Housing Recovery, Says NAR

The best available tool for sustaining the still-fragile housing market is the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit, and it is essential that Congress extend the credit into 2010, the National Association of Realtors® testified at a hearing of the U.S. House Small Business Committee today.

The tax credit expires November 30.

NAR’s Regional Vice President told the panel that a major stumbling block for consumers has been the implementation of appraisal processes spurred by the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which is causing delays in closings, as well as cancelled sales that led to artificially low existing-home sales numbers for August, reported last month.

“The credit is working” he said, pointing out that the 355,000 to 400,000 transactions directly attributable to the credit made a significant dent in the housing inventory and will help to stabilize home prices. Further, the credit has provided a huge indirect benefit to local governments, shoring up property tax bases in particularly hard-hit areas.

Further, NAR data has estimated that every home purchase pumps into the recovering economy about $63,000 – the equivalent of one new job added to the employment figures.

But, he said, the threat of more foreclosures coming to the market caused by mortgage rate resets, job losses, and by lender’s unburdening themselves of additional properties to take advantage of today’s more stabilized prices could disrupt the fragile recovery.

In a “normal” market, optimal housing inventory is about six to seven months, he said. When the tax credit was enacted in February, inventory was 9.1 months. Because of the spurt in homes sales since then due to the tax credit, inventory declined to 8.2 months in August, closer to “normal” than at any time since 2007.

In urging Congress to extend the credit, NAR’s Regional Vice-president said, “The more robust the credit and the greater its duration, the greater the chance that the housing market can perform its traditional role of helping the economy move out of a recession.”

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