(Source: Associated Press)

Aspiring homebuyers rushed to take advantage of a tax credit for first-time owners that expires in November, driving up the number of signed sales contracts for the seventh straight month in August.

Construction spending also rose unexpectedly in August on the biggest jump in housing activity in nearly 16 years, another sign the real estate market is recovering from its four-year slump, data Thursday showed.

Sales and homebuilding are being fuelled by a tax-credit of up to $8,000, low mortgage rates and cheap foreclosures. In some of the most hard-hit areas, like Phoenix and Las Vegas, there are bidding wars for deeply discounted properties. And in all but a few cities, home prices are slowly starting to rise, reversing their three-year descent.

To make sure first-time buyers can complete their purchases by the Nov. 30 deadline, real estate agents “have been pushing buyers to sign a contract at least a couple months in advance” according to Abiel Reinhart, an economist with JPMorgan Chase.

More than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress to extend the credit, but it’s unclear if lawmakers want to continue to subsidize the market.

Read Alan Zibel’s full article “August pending home sales rise to 2 1/2 year high” in the Associated Press (October 1, 2009).

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