Reporting from Washington — Home buyers hoping to take advantage of a new or extended tax credit should not procrastinate: This third bite at the apple will be the last.
Proponents of the $8,000 credit for first-time buyers and the $6,500 credit for move-up buyers made it clear during the debate on Capitol Hill that the benefits would not be renewed when they expire. And a lobbyist for the National Assn. of Realtors confirmed that at the group's annual convention last month.
Lawmakers "made us promise practically in blood that we would not come back" for another extension, Linda Goold, the Realtor group's director of tax policy, told her members.
During the debate, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a former real estate broker and a longtime proponent of the tax credit, promised his colleagues, "This is the last extension."
And Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "It is important that this tax credit does not become a permanent fixture of the tax code."
As it stands now, buyers who meet the income eligibility requirements have until midnight April 30, 2010, to ink a deal and must close by midnight June 30 to qualify.
Congress enacted the original $7,500 first-time buyer credit as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. But because the credit had to be paid back it was more like a no-interest loan than a true credit and there were relatively few takers.
So in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, lawmakers upped the ante to a maximum of $8,000 for new buyers who closed before Dec. 1. They also said the new credit need not be paid back unless the taxpayer moves out within the three-year period following the purchase.
This second attempt at stimulating sales worked so well that the housing lobby implored Congress to help keep the momentum going. So lawmakers extended the deadline for first-timers and added a "long-term resident" tax credit for repeat buyers who owned their current home for at least five consecutive years out of the last eight.
Incidentally, the credit is not a flat $8,000 for new buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers. It is 10% of the purchase price up to those ceilings. There is no credit if the price of the house is above $800,000.
Griswolds reunite for Super Bowl ad
How big is the second-home rental market? It's big enough to support a 30-second TV ad during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7.
The sponsor, HomeAway.com, a site that lists some 425,000 rental properties both here and abroad, won't reveal how much the spot cost. But you can bet it will be a bundle. A 30-second ad for the upcoming contest runs from $1.9 million to $2.5 million, depending on when it appears during the game and other considerations.
The spot, which will reunite Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, who played Clark and Ellen Griswold in the 1980s comedy classic "National Lampoon's Vacation," will kick off a national campaign aimed at showing the value and benefits of renting vacation homes as opposed to hotel rooms or condo apartments.
The first-time Super Bowl advertiser is hoping to reach the more than 100 million people who watch the big game, many of whom tune in just to see the commercials, with the message that vacationers can rent a whole house for half the cost of a hotel room.
The biggest part of the deal is not the Super Bowl but licensing the movie and its characters from Warner Bros., says Brian Sharples, HomeAway's chief executive. "There's a lot of nostalgia for bringing back the Griswolds."
In the film, Clark and Ellen Griswold take their children on an ill-fated cross-country road trip to the fictional theme park Wally World.
Distributed by United Feature Syndicate.