Real estate agents are working seven days a week, builders are staying open late, and homebuyers are scrambling to get their offers in as they rush to take advantage of tax credits that expire at midnight tonight.
To qualify, buyers must have a signed contract in hand by the deadline and must complete the deal by June 30.
The tax incentives - offered to first-time buyers and some current homeowners - are fueling a strong selling season and helping home prices stabilize. Real estate agents hope the burst in activity, along with the lifting of general economic gloom, will propel the housing market for the rest of the year. "It's been a great thing for us," said Andrew Dielmann, owner of Dielmann Sotheby's International Realty in St. Louis. "I would love to be a first-time homebuyer right now."
In Houston, transit mechanic Stan Henderson, 51, is buying his first home, a three-bedroom, $104,995 house that is still under construction. Affordable prices and low mortgage rates were part of the draw, he said, but the tax credit "was the straw that stirred the drink."
Congress included the temporary tax credit in the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law a month after President Obama took office last year. The idea was to revive the housing market. Lawmakers, after intense lobbying from the real estate industry, agreed to extend it to April 30.
The government is offering buyers who haven't owned a home for three years a tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase price, up to $8,000. Single buyers with incomes above $145,000 and couples who make more than $245,000 are not eligible.
There is also a credit of 10 percent, up to a maximum of $6,500, for buyers who already own a home. To qualify, they have to have been homeowners for at least five years. The same income limits apply.