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Expanded extension of tax credit elates real estate agents.

Byline: Ilene Aleshire The Register-Guard

Lane County real estate agents said they are ecstatic that an $8,000 first-time homebuyers credit - set to expire Nov. 30 - is going to be extended, and expanded to include a $6,500 credit for certain buyers who already own a home.

"The $8,000 credit has kept me busy in the last few weeks," said Marie Due, past president of the Eugene Association of Realtors. "I was getting a little worried that my phone was no longer going to work after Nov. 30."

Shaunna Durham, a Windermere Real Estate broker in Springfield, said that while the first-time buyer credit generated a lot of buyers, they were primarily in the lower end of the market. Now, with the expansion of the credit to existing homeowners, Durham said, "I think something is going to break loose in the move-up market."

Real estate agents had hoped that first-time buyers attracted into the market by the initial tax credit would have a trickle-up effect, said Due, a broker with Barnhart Associates in Eugene.

The thinking was that the people who sold their homes to the newbies would turn around and move up themselves to a home in a higher price range, she said.

But, many first-time buyers instead gravitated to foreclosures or short sales, Due said, where buyers were selling for less than they owed on the house to get out from under a mortgage they couldn't afford. So the ripple effect didn't occur.

On the plus side, Due added, many of those short sales and foreclosures, which had been a drag on the market, have been mopped up by first-time buyers.

Lorena Teer, president of the Eugene Realtors Association, said the first-time buyers credit did a lot to stabilize the local real estate market. As proof, she points to the inventory of unsold homes, which had soared to 20.6 months in January before falling to 6.8 months in September. "Now that they've even expanded (the credit) to existing homeowners - with the caveats in place - it's going to add more to the momentum that's already in place."

The winter months are traditionally a slower period for real estate sales, said Teer, a broker with Prudential Real Estate Professionals in Eugene. But she suspects there will be more activity this year because of the extended, and expanded, tax credit. "We'll see some seasonal slow down, but I don't think it's going to be like it (usually is)."

Jody Johnstone of Prudential in Eugene said she foresees the tax credits having a ripple effect not just in the real estate market, but throughout the community: "It's also sending a message, I think, of encouragement."

Johnstone said there are some uplifting signs in the local economy, such as a possible sale of the shuttered Hynix computer chip plant to a solar-panel maker.

"So much of everything that is happening is tied to jobs," she said. "Hopefully jobs will become more secure, and people will be less reluctant to look for a new home, put money into the homes they have, and spend money in the community, investing in what we have here."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 6, 2009
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