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Tax credit ends as home buyers, sellers make last-minute deals

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The now-expired tax credit for first-time homebuyers continued to prop up the local housing market into the final hours Friday.

Local real estate agents wrapping up sales reported strong turnover during March and April as buyers and sellers capitalized on the $8,000 subsidy.

“It’s actually been fast and furious for the past four to six weeks. There are lots of houses coming on the market and a lot of them are coming under contract very quickly,” said Steve Lillestrand, president of the La Crosse Area Realtors Association board of directors.

Buyers had to enter into a contract by 12:01 a.m. today and must close on the sale by June 30 to take advantage of the first-time or repeat homebuyer programs.

Houses, which on average spend 75 days on the market, were coming under contract in less than a week, Lillestrand said, adding the tax credit more than anything had gotten people off the fence.

But he cautioned it’s not for everyone.

“Some people just shouldn’t buy a house right now, and if they’re doing it just to get that $8,000, they’re making a mistake,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is sell a house to somebody and have them call me six months later and say they have to sell because they can’t afford it.”

There are plenty of buyers who didn’t let the tax credit dictate when they’re going to purchase a property.

“Rates are great, and some people are saying, ‘I’m not going to let the tax credit affect me,’” said  Re/Max First Choice agent Brian Stephen.

Local agents don’t expect sales will drop off much, given the typically strong spring market that lasts through fall.

“We’re going to see a little bit of a slowness in the next couple weeks because the tax credit has taken some of the purchases from June and July and moved them up a few months,” Stephen said.

It would have been much more detrimental had that credit expired in October, Lillestrand noted.

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