By Alan Zibel, AP Real Estate Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homebuyers may get an extra three months to finish qualifying for federal tax incentives that boosted home sales this spring.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday he wants to give buyers until Sept. 30 to complete their purchases and qualify for tax credits of up to $8,000. Under the current terms, buyers had until April 30 to get a signed sales contract and until June 30 to complete the sale.
The proposal would only allow people who already have signed contracts to finish at the later date. The National Association of Realtors estimates that about 180,000 homebuyers who already signed purchase agreements are likely to miss the deadline.
Reid introduced the proposal as an amendment to a bill that would extend jobless benefits through the end of November. Joining him were Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.
The Senate is expected to take up the amendment next week. Senate Democratic leaders hope to finish work on the jobless benefits bill next week, but they have yet to secure enough votes.
Reid, who faces perhaps the toughest re-election campaign of his political career, represents a state that has the nation's highest foreclosure rate.
The Realtors group has been pushing hard in Congress for the extension. Mortgage lenders, the trade group says, have been swamped with borrowers trying to get approved by the end of the month. Many potential borrowers are unlikely to make the deadline.
"Time is of the essence," said Lucien Salvant, a spokesman for the group. "It's important for Congress to get this done, because there's whole bunch of loans that aren't' going to close on time."
First-time buyers were eligible for a tax credit of up to $8,000. Current owners who bought and moved into another home could qualify for a credit of up to $6,500.