Congress passes bill to help homeowners, moves to President's desk

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A bill is headed to President Obama's desk Friday that would extend unemployment benefits, tax credits for home buyers and aid struggling U.S. companies. The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the $24-billion legislation Thursday.

"Congress has wasted so much money on the stupidest programs and earmarks that do not stimulate the economy. If they would ever figure out and have the guts to say we're going to do what's right for the country, hold back spending and spend where it counts, then that will make a difference in this economy," said Debbie Finley with Remax.

Finley said she's happy Congress enacted legislation to improve the housing market. Finley said the housing market is one of the most important indicators to judge economic strength.

"It should have been done sooner, but we have it now. Why do you want to only stimulate a small segment of the home buying market? You want to stimulate all sectors of it," said Finley. "When you allow more people the opportunity to take advantage of a tax credit, you're going to move more real estate. You're going to help more people get out of their homes that need to sell their homes, whether they're upsizing or downsizing. It's just going to help."

According to Finley, there are 641 homes listed for sale in Craighead County by the Jonesboro Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service. There are more than 800 homes listed for sale in northeast Arkansas in areas as far away as Mountain Home.

"It's still very affordable to own a home here. It's cheaper to own a home than it is to rent a home. You decide to go buy your first home, you deplete your savings account and that may be a little scary for some folks, but to know you're going to get maybe an $8,000 tax credit back," said Finley. "Now you got some money to maybe upgrade your furnace and air conditioner to an energy efficient furnace and air conditioner. So there are just so many positive things to it."

Under the proposed bill, first-time home buyers will be able to obtain $8,000 in tax credits if they sign a contract on a new home by April 30, 2010. The buyer must close on the home no later than June 30, 2010.

"In addition not only to first time homebuyers, but folks who own their own homes now and have lived in their primary residence for the last five years. That allows them to move up to that next house," said Michele Gibson at The Mortgage Source. "There are income limits. They are $125,000 for an individual and $250,000 for couples."

Home buyers must also purchase a home that doesn't exceed $800,000.

"It's estimated that about 70% of America's homebuyers and homeowners would fit this criteria, so it could really see a great impact on home buying," said Gibson.

The home owner tax credit also expands to people who have owned a home for at least five years. Qualified applicants could obtain up to $6,500 in tax credit.

"Both the realtor community as well as the lending community have pushed and have talked to our congressmen and our senators, telling them this is a good idea," said Gibson. "Housing has always been the base of our economy. It just does so much good to own your own home."

"There's nothing more agonizing than to have your house on the market and you have to call the client and say, I'm sorry, there's just not a buyer out there right now. When you can move property, you can ease family's tensions and heartaches and problems. That's a wonderful accomplishment," said Finley.

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