Our neighborhood is all abuzz as cold weather which produced three inches of snow on Monday will be a distant memory when temperatures approach 80 degrees this weekend. Definitely, the month of March has some of the most changeable weather of the year, but we’re confident that Spring has arrived here in the Carolinas.
March is also the month when the housing market traditionally heats up as first time home buyers look to jump into the market, while others trade up to new homes or move away in pursuit of a job or change in scenery. But, 2009 is not an ordinary year as the country continues to grapple with a deep recession.
Truly, it is difficult to gauge how the market will shape up over the coming months, but there are some trends to keep in mind if you plan to buy or sell a home this season:
Home Inventory Is Stable — In most years, February housing inventory usually grows as homeowners put their houses on the market. Not this year. Instead, February remained flat which is actually a good thing for sellers: the housing glut isn’t worsening, which could mean that prices will begin to stabilize.
Mortgage Rates Are Low — 30 year fixed mortgage rates have been flirting with the 5% mark since the beginning of the year, with some mortgage brokers breaking through that barrier by offering their lowest interest rate to people with excellent credit. Having a good, secure job (not an easy task these days) and plenty of money to put down are two attributes lenders are looking at this year.
Federal Tax Credit Is In Play — First time home buyers are getting some help from the federal government in the form of an $8000 tax credit. If you buy a home this year at any time before December 1, 2009, then you may qualify for the credit. Unlike last year’s credit, this one isn’t repaid to the government — so go ahead and negotiate your best deal this Spring. Restrictions apply — visit IRS.gov to learn more.
Federal Foreclosure Stabilization — Details are still be worked out, but expect that the federal government will intervene to rescue millions of mortgage holders. What this will do to our national debt is to expand it but it could also have the short term effect of halting foreclosures while also stimulating the economy. Look for home prices in some markets to stabilize as a result of these measures.
Finally, before you head out to your first open house or meet with a real estate agent, get pre-qualified for a mortgage to see how much home you can afford. Home shoppers who have a pre-qualification letter from their mortgage broker arm themselves with just the right document to help seal the deal.
Photo Credit: Laura Leavell
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