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Home Sales Expected To Rise 5.2 Percent In March In First Increase Since November
Home sales are expected to rise 5.2 percent in March, reversing three months of declines, as government incentives juiced the housing market and kicked off what’s expected to be a strong spring selling season.
Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast the National Association of Realtors will say sales of previously occupied homes rose last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million, up from 5.02 million in February. That was the weakest month since last July.
“The spring selling season will be a success and probably the most active we’re seen in years,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.
Sales nationally declined over the winter, eroding gains made last fall and summer. The downward direction troubled economists because the government has taken unprecedented steps to support the housing sector.
Home shoppers have felt less rushed after lawmakers extended the deadline to qualify for tax incentives. The government is offering a $8,000 credit for first-time buyers and a $6,500 credit for current homeowners who have lived in their property for the past five years.
But now time is running out. Buyers must sign contract offers by April 30 to qualify, and real estate agents say that’s spurring sales.
“Many people who otherwise wouldn’t be on the market for a home want to take advantage of these tax credits,” said Kathi McLeod, sales manager for Windermere Real Estate in Boise, Idaho. “You have buyers who have been looking and looking at properties and realizing that it’s almost too late, so they’re really scrambling and jumping into deals.”
Still, some housing market experts predict the market will take a dramatic “double-dip” once the government’s supports are gone. But others argue that there is enough pent-up demand to keep the market chugging. And prices have fallen dramatically since the boom years — as much as 50 percent in some places. So buyers can pick up bargain-priced foreclosures.