Since Congress passed legislation offering up to an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, almost 31,000 homes in Indiana have been sold under the program. In Howard County, Josh Fowler, 23, was one of the first to take advantage of the program, purchasing a three-bedroom home in the Highland Springs subdivision. “I was looking around.  I first looked at renting,” Fowler said while seated in the kitchen area of his new home. “I was in a car accident and considered using the settlement money.” Fowler said he was aware of the tax credit and credited Realtor Shala Glentzer for doing a good job in explaining the program. “It helped with the purchase,” he said. “The tax credit pushed me into buying.” Fowler said he will save a portion of the tax credit funds, but will also purchase appliances and do some small projects around the house. He said he has several friends who have started looking at buying a home. “I was a little hesitant,” Fowler said of making the purchase. “My mom did a good job of preparing me for home ownership.” Fowler said if people looking to purchase a house have the financial ability, it is a good move now because prices are down, as well as the tax credit incentive.

Buying the first home, especially with the tax-credit option is a good thing, said Rob Evans, a Harris Bank relationship manager in mortgage lending. However, he stresses not everyone should be a homeowner. “You have to stop and think, is this really right for me?” said Evans, during a recent Harris’ home-ownership seminar. “There is home maintenance to consider. If you are new to a community or have a job where you frequently move, it may not be the best thing for you. “But there are many grants and programs available to assist you with making a down payment. The worst thing to do is to find a home, find a fantastic deal and you can’t get financed. Banks don’t want to take your home back. I know buyers feel pressure. But remember, you are in control of the entire process. You have ultimate control. The deal can’t be closed without you. “I have no idea if [the government] will extend the tax credit. I hope they will consider it,” Evans said. “It is helping to boost the economy, and it is keeping the housing market going.”

Glentzer said she has sold nine houses through the incentive program and has another four purchases in the process. “A majority of the people have heard about the program,” she said. “It has really helped the local real estate market. There have been people renting and decided to purchase, a majority are first-time home owners.”

Kathy Harbaugh, director of the Realtors Association for Central Indiana, said sales figures through the tax credit are not being tracked, but says the federal program has had an impact. “We’re coming up to the deadline,” she said of the Nov. 30 cutoff date. “People have to close on the purchase of a house by the end of November.” Harbaugh is advising people to buy now and not taking a chance the program will be extended. “It has been a huge benefit,” she said. “It has been very important to the housing industry. With every transaction, 51 people go to work.” The program has helped the economy as a whole, as people are moving into existing homes, Harbaugh said. She said in many cases, buyers don’t need a down payment or in some cases a 5 percent down payment. Harbaugh said sales in the six county area are stabilizing and noted that July was a good month. “We’re not seeing additional declines,” she said. “People sitting on the fence are buying, which is a positive sign. There is no spikes up and down in sales.” The fourth quarter is normally when sales go down, Harbaugh said. “It has not been a bad year,” she said. “It has been better than what people expected.” Harbaugh said sales in the region have been a mixed bag. Leading the way has been Grant and Wabash counties. “Mortgage rates have maintained and home prices remain lower,” she said. “It is a great opportunity. Consumer confidence is starting to climb, and people are going back to work. The foundation is being put in place.”

Penny Irwin with the local ReMax office said the tax credit program has been beneficial to first-time home buyers. “We have used it a lot,” she said. “People that were considering buying, it has gotten them off the fence.” Irwin said sales are not declining in Howard County and starting to level off. “There has been no increase in the price of homes,” she said. “I’m surprised the market is stabilizing.”

• K.O. Jackson, Tribune business reporter, contributed to this report.  Original article can be found at KokomoTribune.com