Orange County home sales jump 10 Percent

Posted by Times Herald-Record

Local home sales continue to benefit greatly from the federal tax credit for first-time buyers, but time is running out.

Single-family home sales in Orange County jumped 10.8 percent in September, to 185 from 167 a year ago, according to the Orange County Association of Realtors. In Ulster County, 108 single-family homes sold in September, up 12.5 percent from the 96 sales in September 2008, according to the Ulster County Board of Realtors.

In Sullivan County, home sales held steady at 37, according to the Sullivan County Board of Realtors.

Local Realtors say the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers has boosted sales. “Over the past six months, probably 80 percent of our buyers have been first-timers,” said Carole McCann, broker/owner of Hudson Heritage Realty in Washingtonville. “This really has made a large difference in people willing to take the plunge.”

Prices down across region

The high proportion of first-time buyers has boosted sales, but hasn’t done much to support prices, which continued to decline when compared to year-ago levels.

Orange County’s median sale price of $266,500 was 3.6 percent lower than a year ago, while Ulster’s median of $205,000 represented an 18 percent slide from September 2008. Sullivan County’s September median of $125,000 was 22.8 percent lower than a year ago.

Through the first nine months of the year, prices are down 11 percent in Orange, 17 percent in Ulster and 15.4 percent in Sullivan.

Those figures reflect not only the softening market, but also the high proportion of sales involving first-time buyers of lower-priced homes.

With the first-time buyer tax credit set to expire Nov. 30, Realtor and builder organizations are among those lobbying for an extension. They’re also preparing for a two-month stint in the dilemma zone.

Ulster Savings Bank, for instance, is telling first-time buyers to get their mortgage applications in by Oct. 13 if they want the best chance of closing by Nov. 30.

“That will give us basically six weeks to close the loan, which under normal circumstances will be enough time,” said Brain Mathews, the bank’s vice president of residential mortgage lending.

If the tax-credit deadline isn’t extended, the developer of Presidential Ridge in Middletown is offering an $8,000 credit to first-time buyers who go into contract by the end of the year on a home with base price of $300,000 or more.

The idea is to take some of the uncertainty out of the process for first-time buyers, said Dave Smith, general manager of Real Estate Solutions, which represents the builder.

mlevensohn@th-record.com

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