Coldwell Banker Rebate: Is It Fluff?

Coldwell Banker Launches National Rebate Program As home sales rallied nationwide in March, the real estate conglomerate Coldwell Banker and its franchisees have kicked-off a rebate program to pick up the slack -- or potential slowdown -- after the federal home-tax credit expires. The program begins May 1.

But marketing-campaign aside, some real estate agents say that the program -- in which sellers offer buyers a 3 percent rebate, or up to $8,000, on the price of their home -- is a discount already commonly negotiated in the buying process. It's especially common when a motivated seller is concerned.

What makes this incentive different, according to Paula Gatlin, a broker with a Coldwell Banker franchise in the Dallas area, is the assurance that a discount will happen and won't be left to negotiation. "These sellers are offering it upfront," she says. "You don't have to worry that they are going to do it."

So why can't home-buyers get the rebate every day?

Maybe they can. "I think it's for the people who missed out [on the federal tax credit]," says Chris Pagano, a Chicago-based broker with Coldwell Banker Residential, who says first-time home-buyers in Chicago are looking in the range of $400,000 and under. "It gives them a little more time."

Other Realtors point out that the money is coming from the sellers' pockets. To market their marked-down listings, Coldwell Banker is orchestrating a national advertising campaign, an online promotion, and a specially-branded yard-sign for participating homes.

But it's a way to prop up home sales for the company when the deadline for the home tax credit drops on April 30.

"[The program] focuses the buyer's attention now that the government is out of the bonus arena," says Chris Ford, a broker with a Chicago-area Coldwell Banker franchise, "We are trying to maintain that activity that's been built up."

As of late, real estate experts have attributed the expiring tax credit as one of the main factors -- along with the cyclically strong spring season -- as causing home sales to spike in many regions of the U.S. In the city of Chicago, for example, home sales jumped 50 percent from the same month a year ago, says the Illinois Association of Realtors.

Nationwide, month-to-month existing-home sales also experienced a significant increase, rising 6.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million units in March from February, according to the National Association of Realtors.

It was this "flurry" of activity, says Ford, that made him think it was wise to add one of his listings to the rebate program. The condo, which he describes as being in the first-time-buyer price-range, did not sell last over the past couple of months -- even as sales heightened.

"It was my sense that we were stretching," he says, adding that instead of doing a price reduction, moving the listing to the promotion was an easier way to adjust the price and market at the same time.

Unlike the home tax credit, however, Coldwell Banker has no income restrictions or limits based on home-buying histories.

Though real-estate agents agree that the rebate is tailored for a motivated seller (most likely someone who has lost their job or has been transferred), on the buy-side, most say that it's targeting the first-time home-buyer.

As with a federal incentive, there's a timeline that requires participating homes to sign contracts before July 31 of this year. Participants do not have meet any deadlines on the closing.

Still, in an extended buyers' market like the current one, a 3 percent rebate is worth asking for, whether a promotion is in effect or not.

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