By JOSH FUNK
AP Business Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Home sales in the Midwest jumped 58 percent last month over year-ago levels, the strongest showing of any region, as first-time buyers rushed to claim a temporary federal tax credit.
There were 106,000 completed sales in the 11-state region, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. The median home price was flat at $140,800.
Nationally, existing home sales jumped almost 47 percent from November of last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors. The median sales price fell 4 percent to $172,600.
About half of all buyers in November were first-time home buyers, NAR said.
Many hurried to get under a deadline to qualify for an $8,000 tax credit that was set to expire at the end of the month, though Congress then extended and expanded the program through April.
Buyers who have owned their current homes for at least five years are eligible for a tax credit of up to $6,500, while first-time home buyers — or anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years — can still get up to $8,000.
The tax credit deadline drove sales across most of the Midwest.
“It got everybody moving,” said Don Godwin, owner of the Re/Max Real Estate Group in Des Moines.
But economic problems in some areas outweighed the tax credit’s benefit.
“Our problem is the unemployment,” said Realtor Ken Gentile with Re/Max Home Sales Service in Detroit.
All 12 major Midwestern cities tracked in the Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, also released Tuesday, showed double-digit annual sales increases. The sales gains ranged from a 19 percent jump in Detroit to a 94 percent increase in Omaha.
Seven of the cities reported median sale price gains over November last year, including increases of roughly 30 percent in Cleveland and Detroit.
The report analyzed sales transactions in the metropolitan statistical areas recorded by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.
Here are some of the highlights from the region:
—Biggest price gains: Cleveland’s median sales prices jumped 31 percent to $112,500 in November to lead the region.
Realtor Al Stasek with Re/Max Crossroads in the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River said autumn sales activity was unseasonably strong in the area.
“Our inventory is down and demand increased because of the first-time homebuyer credit,” Stasek said.
Detroit’s median home price jumped 29 percent to $74,900. But Gentile said he thinks the price gain figures might be a bit misleading because many homeowners have been pulling their homes off the market because they don’t want to compete with bank-owned foreclosure sales.
“The amount of equity lost is just ridiculous,” Gentile said.
—Biggest sales gain: Omaha home sales jumped 94 percent to 927 in November.
Realtor Kelly Rasmussen with Keller Williams Greater Omaha said she has been surprised with how busy the last couple months have been even leading up to Christmas this week.
Omaha’s median sales price remained relatively unchanged in November at $147,825, and Rasmussen said she thinks many homes in the area are still underpriced.
—Biggest price decline: Median home prices in Des Moines declined nearly 9 percent to $140,000 in November. But Des Moines still saw a 74 percent jump in sales thanks to the tax credits.
“The interest rate is excellent, and there are some good buys,” Godwin said.