Applications for primary home mortgages are down to level not seen since May 1997. The Mortgage Bankers Association, the trade group for mortgage bankers, is attributing this to the expiration of the federal tax credit and overall slow economic revival. The data points to the week ending May 14.
To be completely fair, what the tax credit did was encourage people who would have purchased a home in the summer make an earlier decision. The tax credit was an incentive and it front-end-loaded the sales activity in the housing market. As I predicted and explained in our January post the first time home buyer tax credit impacted the real estate market cycle, accelerating sales activity by nearly 2 months!
What I am seeing is that the market in Cincinnati is still active despite the tax credit expiring. Buyer are still looking for homes and some made the decision that in their price point $8,000 was not enough of an incentive to purchase a home they really did not love. I am also working with a lot of buyers who did not qualify for the credit for one reason or another. They still want to buy.
The Tax credit was an economic stimulus measure to create economic activity in the market to boost the economy. It was not a subsidy for home ownership, in my opinion. When people buy homes they need ancillary services like movers, painters, contractors, plumbers, and carpenters. Home sales generate a lot of economic activity outside of the sale and that is what the tax credit was designed to do, I think, and from the numbers it looks like it served its purpose.