Looming tax credit deadlines help area home sales in March

Sales up 17 percent from last March

prices dropped just over 4 percent

April 09, 2010|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

Home buyers in the Baltimore area picked up the pace last month as the spring selling season got under way -- and the deadline for an $8,000 tax credit loomed.

As prices continued to fall, March home sales rose 17 percent from a year earlier in the metro area, Metropolitan Regional Information Systems said Friday. The company, which runs the multiple-listing service used by buyers and sellers, said new contracts signed in March -- deals that will likely turn into settled sales this month or next -- jumped almost 40 percent.

First-time home buyers hoping to quality for the federal tax credit of up to $8,000 have to sign a contract by the end of this month and close by the end of June, a deadline that is probably driving at least some of the increase. The timing is the same for a $6,500 credit aimed at certain repeat home buyers. Economists have wrangled over the likely effect to the market when the credits expire, but many expect sales to fall.

The average Baltimore-area home sale price dropped just over 4 percent last month, compared with a year earlier, to about $266,000. The average for the month of March rose as high as $307,000 -- in 2007 -- before falling as part of a national slump.

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