No tax break? No problem

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Cherry Hill Sun

It’s a buyers’ market right now on the streets of Cherry Hill and Camden County, according to several real estate experts in the area. Even with the first-time homebuyers tax credit expiring this past April, this is still an advantageous time to purchase a home.

William J. Labbree, Jr. — president of the Burlington Camden County Association of Realtors — said the federal tax credit did a good job of stoking interest in the real estate market. With its initial success, it was extended until April, and, even with it expiring, the market has benefited up to this point.

Seeing how successful it was, the state is looking to implement several programs that will give incentives for purchasers of property, he said.

“It’s definitely a buyers’ market. From a seller’s standpoint, there is a lot of competition on the market and not as many buyers. It’s also a little more difficult for buyers because of increased requirements for lending — lenders are much more strict in their qualifying requirements,” he said. “But for those that are qualified buyers, it is certainly the time for them to make a move. They have the benefit of having a large selection of properties to choose from at a good price.”

Short sales and distressed properties are having an impact on home values at this point, he said, keeping prices low and providing some affordable houses for buyers.

Even though the market is filled with homes at this point, Labbree warned prospective buyers to qualify themselves with a legitimate lender to determine what they can afford. Buyers need to realize what they can spend on a home so they can stay within a comfortable margin and not become “house poor,” he said.

Everyone knows it’s a buyers’ market right now, said David Rifkin, Realtor and broker associate of Buividas, Batten, and Rifkin in Cherry Hill. The median price of a home in Cherry Hill has decreased to $179,000 from May 2009 when it was $190,000, he said.

However, the number of homes sold this past year has risen, he said, from 1,256 from May 2008 to May 2009, to 1,437 from May 2009 to the present.

Since the tax incentive expired for new homebuyers, Rifkin said it hasn’t affected home sales too much in the township. Luckily, it expired right when the busy season began for the Cherry Hill real estate market.

“Interest rates are also very low right now. A 30-year mortgage is under 5 percent. Between it being a buyers’ market and prices being down, and interest rates being low, it’s a great time to buy property,” Rifkin said. “Most buyers are looking for bargains in this market. As long as the sellers are pricing their homes aggressively and realistically, they’re selling. If they’re overpricing, they’re sitting, and they may sit a while. Houses that are priced aggressively will sell.”

Houses are being reduced in price, he said, but mostly because they aren’t priced correctly in the first place. This is about as low as prices are going to go, they’ve hit a plateau, he said, so if buyers are looking to purchase a property this would be the time.

“I don’t think the prices are really going to go lower. I think they’ve hit a plateau. I think you’ll see a gradual increase in the prices, but it will take a few years,” Rifkin said. “It’s definitely encouraging that more houses are selling now. Houses are selling, but prices are down. As long as they’re realistic in their prices, there are buyers, and the numbers have increased since last year.”