Homebuyers rush to get first-timers tax credit

Contracts must be finalized today to qualify for tax credit
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Tony Febus intended to rent again, but started looking to buy when he heard of the first-time homebuyer tax credit. He's set to close on this Aiken townhouse.

Tony Febus finally got tired of moving from place to place and handing out rent checks.

Helped by an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, Febus, 29, soon should have a space to call his own after signing a contract Wednesday for a Chloe Lane townhome in Aiken.

"I was honestly going to rent again and then I thought about it and that (the credit) would help a lot with expenses," Febus said.

A flurry of homebuyers such as Febus are still trying to lock in contracts to beat today's deadline to qualify for tax credits, according to local real estate agents.

First-time buyers are eligible for an $8,000 tax credit, while those who have previously bought a home can receive $6,500. Contracts must be finalized by today, and buyers have until June 30 to close on the deals.

Marilyn Mercado, a real estate agent in Meybohm Realtors' Tobacco Road office, was working Wednesday with two clients, including Febus, to beat the deadline.

Febus, a general manager for the Pizza Joint, said he first thought about purchasing a home after a friend mentioned the tax credit to him and began looking in March. He estimated he visited between 25 and 30 homes since then.

Recent home sales data indicate there are more buyers such as Febus. Nationally, existing home sales rose 6.8 percent in March to 5.35 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Mercado said she was still showing homes to potential buyers this week as they raced against the clock. She said she wished Congress would continue the program as it did in the past.

"I surely wish we could get that extended," she said. "It's just a fantastic program, especially for people with low incomes."

The expiration of the tax credits has combined with what is traditionally a strong spring selling season for the real estate industry, said Jeff Keller, broker for Century 21 Jeff Keller Realty.

"We've seen a little jump in the action, but it's nothing dynamic," he said. "It's normal this time of year for things to pick up."

The tax credits have helped buoy the home-buying market, said Keller, adding that low interest rates on mortgages will be key to continuing the upward trend.

"They don't realize what kind of bonus the government is giving people to buy these houses," he said.

Matt Anderson, a real estate agent in Meybohm Realtors' North Augusta office, said he has been working to close four deals from the past two months that were a direct result of the tax credits.

Meybohm's North Augusta office has seen an increase in business of about 30 percent since this time last year, he said.

"That's a lot of money for people right now, and people who maybe thought they wanted to purchase something in the next year or two are moving that up simply to take advantage of it," Anderson said.