If California homebuyers didn’t get in on the federal tax credit that expired last Friday, they can still get a $10,000 credit that kicked in on Saturday, May 1 thanks to California lawmakers.

And that has touched off a “feeding frenzy”, according to an article late last week in the Los Angeles Times:

“I am looking at properties almost constantly, and it is just kind of a feeding frenzy right now, which frustrates me,” said Zeenath Shareef, 30, a Venice Beach renter and finance director for a Santa Monica consulting firm who took half days off to look for a home.

“In my mind, properties are going more quickly, and in some cases for more than what they would normally sell for, because people are in such a rush to buy ahead of this deadline,” she said. “I hear people saying, friends of mine saying, ‘I have to buy, I have to buy, I have to buy.’ “

Los Angeles shoppers opened contracts on 911 houses in March, a 32.2% increase from March 2009, according to data from the California Assn. of Realtors. While that increase was sizeable sizable, it also reflects a rebound from a period last year when the nation was gripped by the financial crisis and talk of a second Great Depression abounded.

In Santa Ana, buyers opened contracts on 190 houses in March, an 8% increase from the same month a year earlier. In San Diego, buyers opened contracts on 721 houses in March, a 7.5% increase from March 2009.

Similar data for April weren’t available yet, but real estate professionals said the incentives had added kerosene to the traditionally busy spring season and analysts expect sales and prices to rise in coming months as contracts close.

“The stimulus has worked,” said Rick Hoffman, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in San Diego and Temecula Valley. “Buyers are confident that we have seen the bottom of the real estate market and that we are on the way back up.”

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