RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Today is the last day for homebuyers to close on their purchase if they want to get that $8,000 federal tax credit. But a national realtors group says tens of thousands of people may not make it because of various delays. NPR's Tamara Keith reports on the mad dash to close.
TAMARA KEITH: Buying a house is almost always stressful, but the stakes are raised for people racing the clock to qualify for the Homebuyers Tax Credit.
Ms. SARA DYSON: Everything is coming down to the wire.
KEITH: Sara Dyson and her husband Matt were supposed to close on a townhome in northern Virginia a month ago, but they've faced one delay after another. Now it's not clear whether they'll be able to close before the credit is set to expire.
Dyson says she went out to lunch yesterday with her husband and she snapped at him.
Ms. DYSON: And then I kind of sat back and was like, whoa, why am I even getting mad? And I realized I was so stressed out and didn't even realize it.
KEITH: And you can't blame her. There's $8,000 on the line here. Tim Maruszak says he may have to back out on buying if he can't get the tax credit. When he made an offer on a four-bedroom house in Austin back in December, there's no way he imagined he'd still be trying to close come summer. The house is a short sale. He's buying it for less than the current owners owe. And that means a bank had to get involved.
Mr. TIM MARUSZAK: I was told that we were going to close by June 4th. The bank came back and said that they will not meet that deadline and they are not sure when they're going to close.
KEITH: And all he can do is wait.
Mr. MARUSZAK: And I'm ready to close, my realtor's ready to close, my mortgage company's ready to close. We're just waiting on a bank just to just send the information over and say, okay, you know, sign here. And it's really kind of irritating because it's totally out of my control.
KEITH: Yesterday the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would extend the closing deadline to September 30th. But the bill's fate in the Senate is a bit murky at the moment.
Lucien Salvant is a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. He says when Congress expanded the tax credit last fall, everyone thought allowing 60 days for buyers to close was plenty of time. But they were wrong.
Mr. LUCIEN SALVANT (National Association of Realtors): There's a lot of factors in there that we didn't think about. A lot of the lenders are saying that their pipelines are filled right now. They just weren't staffed up to close so many loans on June 30th or just before it.
KEITH: Add to that tightened lending standards and countless other things that could cause hiccups and Salvon estimates 180,000 people who were expecting to get the tax credit could lose out.
Mr. SALVANT: I think it's a tragedy that this would just sort of dash all their hopes and crush their dreams.
Mr. TODD EWING (Federal Title and Escrow Company): Get you started here, sign...
KEITH: Todd Ewing will be asking a lot of people to sign here today. He's the founder of Federal Title and Escrow Company in Washington, D.C. He shows me his calendar.
Mr. EWING: Basically at this point we are triple-booked on the hour. Every hour starting at 9:00.
KEITH: He has 19 people on the schedule today, all rushing to close before the credit expires. And Ewing says there are many more waiting for their paperwork to come through.
Mr. EWING: If all those 15 or so get on the calendar in addition to the ones we have, we're all going to be here till midnight, I mean literally we will be. And for those who don't make the calendar, you know, it's -there will be some tears shed.
KEITH: That is, unless Congress steps in and votes to extend the deadline.
Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.
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