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First-Time Buyers Race to Beat the Clock, Qualify for $8,000 Federal Tax Credit

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RISMEDIA, September 15, 2009—First-time home buyers have just 12 weeks to find and close on a home to qualify for the $8,000 Federal tax credit before the November 30th deadline. Those just beginning the process will have to beat the average time it takes to buy a home, a challenge smart buyers can meet even though it’s taking longer today to close most transactions. 

Two significant challenges first-time buyers face today include the potential for a lengthy process related to search and closing if not managed carefully at every step, and intensified competition. On average, first-time buyers search 12 weeks to find a home, while closing can take up to 60 days, depending on individual circumstances and local regulations. Additionally, the tax credit has proved to be extremely popular this year, since taking advantage of the first-time homebuyer’s Federal tax credit and relevant state incentives is the most important reason motivating 10.8% of buyers today. In fact, approximately 1.14 million buyers have already filed for the credit. Many more are expected to file for the credit when income taxes are due April 2010. 

Still, while time is short and competition high, historically high affordability is a major factor driving first-time home buyers today, a growing group accounting for one third of all purchases in July 2009. The National Association of Realtors’ affordability index in July 2009 was 36.0 percentage points higher than July 2008. Under these conditions the typical median-income family can allocate 15.8% of their gross income to mortgage payments, well below the traditional allowance of 25%. Interest rates, which play a major factor in affordability, remain low, at 5.22% in July for a 30-year fixed rate loan. 

Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson explains, “The national median home today costs approximately 174,100. By moving quickly to find and close on a home by November 30, first-time buyers qualifying for the $8,000 tax credit can actually purchase this same home for only $166,100, an almost four and a half percent discount off of the price of a typical new home. Because affordability this year is at its highest level in 28 years, and the market offers an incredible selection of homes within reach of most first-time buyers, we expect their numbers to grow as they pursue today’s once in a generation opportunity to become homeowners.” 

Samuelson suggests that by combining effective use of technology and the greater access to information it delivers with expert advice from local Realtors, today’s first-time home buyers can beat the clock and use the $8,000 Federal tax credit along with any available state-level credits to purchase a home under the November 30 deadline. “By moving quickly, being prepared to make decisions in the face of increased competition, and taking the learnings from others to reduce time without cutting corners, first-time home buyers starting today can close on time and qualify for the $8,000 Federal tax credit,” added Samuelson. “To help this important group trying to enter today’s market, Realtor.com offers tips and expert advice that can help expedite the search, negotiation, finance and closing processes so they can beat the clock.” 

Tips for the first time home buyer starting their search today:

-Searching – Search While You Sleep – Since 87% of all buyers start online, you probably will too. On Realtor.com it’s easy to sign up for email alerts and create personal portfolios for homes of interest. Soon you’ll be searching while you sleep, at the office or even while you’re at an open house. You’ll be the first to know if a home you want comes up for sale or receives a price reduction.

-Negotiating - Freshness counts. You don’t have time to look at unavailable homes. Stale data on prices, time on market, features, or property values puts you at a disadvantage when negotiating.

-Appraisals - Appraisals can be a problem today; make sure the lender can deliver the appraisal on time. Your loan will not be approved if it doesn’t appraise for the agreed price, so don’t delay. If the property doesn’t appraise for the bid price, ask for a desk appraisal; you’ll receive a second look.

-Finance - Don’t let the financing process slow you down; 35% of first-time buyers find the mortgage application and approval process more difficult than what they expected. Start saving pay stubs and bank statements now. Collect your tax returns; anything proving your income qualifies you for the home you want.

-Closing - Get your insurance company and the home owner association, if applicable, to forward a cost estimate to the escrow company early. This will make it easier for them to more accurately estimate your closing costs, which in many states must be paid in cash at closing. 

For more information, visit www.realtor.com

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