Tax credit deadline creates hectic day for realtors

Fridays are always busy in the residential real estate business. But it will be awhile before there's another Friday like the last day in April.

Agents and brokers across the city were scrambling Friday to get buyers and sellers together before the homebuyer tax credit deadline at midnight.

For many, it was a wild day on the road handling closings, working leads and putting out the inevitable fires in the complicated paper-heavy homebuying process.

"Honestly, the last two weeks have been insane," said Kelly Kemnitz, a J.P. Weigand agent out of the firm's East Harry office. "I've not gotten home until after 9 p.m. many of those nights, and that doesn't take into account the time I spend on the computer after my kids have gone to bed."

The story's the same in many Wichita brokerages, as customers flood the market — for the $8,000 first-timer deal, the $6,500 break for current homeowners or the lure of low interest rates.

"Our agents are going crazy," said Penny Johnson of Keller Williams Signature Partners in Wichita. "I have a lot of agents, and I talk to a lot of agents from other companies, and we're all doing business, but we do have business working that doesn't have to do with the credit."

Kemnitz's frantic Friday had her rushing east to list one house, then dashing to a title company to help a young couple close on a house.

"The spring is always a crazy time, but it's just been compounded right now," she said.

"It's a combination of factors. The units are up in Wichita in March and April over the past several years. The average price isn't, because we're dealing with lower-end buyers, but absolutely the tax credit is driving part of the market."

The credit brought first-timers Darius and Jolynn Draudvila into the Wichita market, who closed Friday a week ahead of schedule.

That's after a roller-coaster ride of lost homes, Kemnitz said, lost to an intensely competitive buyer's market as the credit deadline loomed.

And, even a last-minute house insurance snafu that threatened the deal.

"We kind of wanted to get a house, but the credit definitely pushed us, you know?" Darius Draudvila said. "And we were thinking that if we still don't have a house and the credit expires, then we'd delay the house deal for, oh, half a year."

Kemnitz's day had its definite ups and downs. After completing the listing of former Shocker basketball assistant Earl Grant's house, she learned that a buyer got cold feet at the 11th hour on another home deal.

That's the April housing battleground, a seller's market unlike any seen in Wichita in years, with multiple offers common on many lower-end homes and sales prices topping the original listing price.

"When you're dealing with the first-time homebuyer range, if the house is in a popular neighborhood, a seller can get two or three contracts at once," Johnson said.

"I think there will be a lot of people in our business up late tonight (Friday) running around getting initials."

Midnight Friday, though, doesn't mean that the Wichita housing market will tail off, agents said. Interest rates should keep business busy.

"With the good interest rates, I don't expect the market to just stop," Kemnitz said. "Not with interest rates where they are... There are still people out there who are going to buy."