Students take advantage of tax credit for first time home buyers

Denise Wright

Sophomore nursing major Ashley Round wasn’t looking to buy a home at the beginning of this year. But when she and her boyfriend started seeing commercials advertising the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, they began to explore the option, which ultimately led to them purchasing a home in Mogadore.

At the time, Round and her boyfriend, Jeremy Campbell, a student at Stark State College of Technology, lived together in a house in Mogadore. They were renting from her boyfriend’s father.

“We weren’t looking to buy a house at all because we both had work and school,” Round said. “That came about, and it was really what made us say, ‘Oh, we have to do this now.'”

Patty Bevere, a real estate agent with Cutler Real Estate in Ravenna, said she’s recently seen several cases similar to Round’s.

“We’ve had several Kent State students in,” Bevere said. “They’re looking to purchase because some of them are going to be around for four or five years.”

Bevere said while she has definitely seen an increase of buyers in the 20 to 30 age range, her average number of sales is similar to last year’s. She said overall she doesn’t think the tax credit has affected her business much.

On the other hand, Stephen Boyles, president of Century 21 in Kent, said he partially attributes his office’s increase to the credit. He said while there has certainly been an increase, he does not have exact numbers yet.

Aside from the number of homes sold, Boyles said the quality of the homes being sold has been improved as well.

“Earlier this year, a huge percentage of our business was foreclosed homes,” Boyles said. “Since then, the average sales price has gone up.”

Boyles said the office has seen roughly a 20-percent increase in the average sale prices from the $80 to $100,000 price it was maintaining earlier this year. He added, however, this is not a reflection of the market.

Sale prices of existing homes from August 2008 to August 2009 in the Midwest went from about $167,300 to $149,900 – a 10.4 percent decrease, according to the National Association of Realtors Web site.

Inexpensive foreclosed properties play a significant role in this decrease.

No matter what the price tag, Boyles said there are plenty of financing options available, adding that interest rates for loans are at or near an all-time low.

Adam Rubin, vice president of mortgage lending at Portage Community Bank, said nine out of 10 customers are under Federal Housing Authority loans. These are government-insured loans that only require a 3.5 percent down payment and are designed specifically for first-time home buyers.

While national banks such as Chase and Fifth Third have mortgage loan options, Rubin said community banks can offer a little more of a liberal approach to applications.

“We look at things case by case, instead of being like a national bank where they simply see whether applicants fit the mold,” Rubin said. “That allows us to be a little more lenient, within reason.”

And while financing resources are ample, time is a different matter.

Boyles and Bevere said there’s still time for those first-time buyers who are interested in taking advantage of the tax credit’s Dec. 1 deadline, but they also agreed time is running short.

“Realtors and lenders seem to be in agreement that buyers should be under contract by Oct. 15,” Bevere said.

Despite a strong presence of Realtors lobbying Congress to extend the federal credit beyond its deadline, Boyles said buyers need to be making decisions now.

“We’re hoping they vote to extend it in the coming year, but we can’t expect that it’s going to be extended,” he said. “My personal opinion is it’s likely, but don’t rely on it.”

Contact public affairs reporter Denise Wright at [email protected]