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Lobbyist pushes to extend homebuyer tax credit

Realtors lobbyist Jerry Giovaniello thinks he has better than a 50-50 chance of getting Congress to extend the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers past its Dec. 1 deadline.

He’s also pushing to raise the tax credit to $15,000 and expand it to all homebuyers, though that will take a lot more work, Giovaniello said Friday at Bally’s.

Giovaniello, senior vice president of government affairs for Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Realtors, detailed three major bills on Capitol Hill and how they’ll affect the real estate industry for the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.

The most important legislation is the energy bill, he said. It started at about 1,100 pages, including 50 pages on energy auditing for existing homes.

The legislation would require inspections to determine the energy efficiency rating of any home before it could be sold.

"This is not something we could live with," Giovaniello said.

"The buyer has to buy a new water heater, a new furnace. This would be a lender red line on older homes."

Irene Vogel, executive director of Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, said real estate agents don’t have the expertise to look at SEER rating, or seasonal energy efficiency rating.

She told one of her friends whose husband was laid off from his job as construction superintendent that he should go for SEER certification.

"Now we’re opening up a new field," Vogel said. "What a business. You know home inspectors will do it."

The Nevada Legislature in 2000 passed a statute requiring an energy audit of all homes sold effective 2011, but buyers can waive the audit for the sellers, said Kit Cooper, government affairs director for the local Realtors.

Giovaniello said the home-buyer tax credit has been popular and seems to be working. It would end up costing the Treasury to raise the amount, but members of Congress have children trying to buy homes, so they understand the need, he said.

The recent increase in the loan-to-value ratio for refinancing under President Barack Obama’s loan-modification program may help some areas, particularly high-cost areas, Giovaniello said.

"California, Vegas, Massachusetts — essentially the paradigm there is different and there should be recognition of that," he said.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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