Local home sales have fallen behind last year’s pace, after being up for most of this year because of the homebuyer tax credit.
As of Aug. 31, there had been 2,490 home sales through the local Multiple Listing Service, which covers Lancaster and parts of surrounding counties. That’s down more than 5 percent from the same period last year.
Through the first two quarters of the year, home sales were up 13 percent over 2009, but sales have dropped off sharply in July and August, down more than 50 percent compared with the same months last year.
That’s largely because of the expiration of the federal tax credit of $8,000 for new homebuyers and $6,500 for repeat homebuyers. The credit expired at the end of April, and buyers had until the end of June to close those sales.
Despite the sharp drop-off, there are still many positive signs in the local real estate market.
Sales of new homes, which last year eked out their first year-over-year gain since 2003, are up about 6 percent so far this year.
And average sale prices for new and existing homes are up, leading to an overall price increase of more than 2 percent through August.
Realtors Association of Lincoln Executive Vice President Nicole Jensen said in an e-mail last week that those two developments are signs that the market is stable, despite the drop in sales of existing homes.
Another positive sign is the increase in luxury home sales.
HomeServices of Nebraska, which owns Home Real Estate and Woods Bros Realty in Lincoln, said in a news release Wednesday that sales of homes more than $500,000 are up 11 percent this year compared with last.
“Buyers in the upper price brackets are taking advantage of today’s low interest rates,” said Gene Brake, CEO of HomeServices of Nebraska. “They can get more house for less money than they could a couple years ago.”
Mortgage rates have been hovering at historical lows around 4 percent for several months.
Another reason for the jump in high-end home sales is the “move-up” effect.
As new homebuyers used the tax credit to buy lower-priced homes, it allowed the sellers of those homes to “move up” to bigger, more expensive ones.
In an effort to capitalize on the strong demand for higher-end homes, Woods Bros and Home are planning an open house tour of 22 of the more than 60 houses over $500,000 currently on the market.
The tour is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Home Real Estate agent Nelda Hunt said the tour gives people a “nonthreatening, fun opportunity” to see some of the luxury homes available.
“Our inventory of luxury homes really cleared out the end of last year and the beginning of 2010,” Hunt said. “Now we have a new influx of homes on the market that are great values, and we want people to come out and take a look.”