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Realtors: Federal tax credit stimulates home sales in Northeast

NEW YORK — Home sales in the Northeast surged in November as droves of first-time buyers rushed to take advantage of a federal tax credit.

The nine-state region registered 79,000 home resales last month, up 55 percent from a year ago, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. The median price, however, tumbled about 13 percent to $223,400, the worst decline of any region.

Nationally, sales of existing homes jumped 46 percent from November of last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors. The median sales price fell 4 percent to $172,600.

First-time home buyers made up half of all buyers nationally, the 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 last month. Congress has extended and expanded the credit 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.

“Up through November, the credit clearly gave housing a temporary boost,” said James Diffley, a managing director at IHS Global Insight. “How healthy is the remaining market?”

Home sales in all nine major Northeast cities tracked in the Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report jumped by double digits last month.

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