Has the 2017 Tax Overhaul Hurt Home Sales?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, an overhaul of the U.S. tax code enacted in 2017 that puts a cap on some deductions for homeowners, has “negatively impacted the housing market” by tamping down sales volume, according to a study by the New York Federal Reserve.

The 2017 tax law placed a $10,000 cap on deductions of state and local taxes, increased the standard deduction, and placed a $750,000 limit on the amount of mortgage debt that qualifies for interest write-offs.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, said in NAR’s March existing-home sales report that tax policy changes continue to impact some markets. “The lower-end market is hot while the upper-end market is not,”

Source: “Overall, 2017’s Massive Tax Overhaul Hasn’t Hurt Home Values,” The Washington Post (April 27, 2019) and “Is the Recent Tax Reform Playing a Role in the Decline of Home Sales?” Federal Reserve Bank of New York (April 15, 2019)

Market Shifting to Home Buyers’ Favor

A housing market defined by rapidly rising home prices, bidding wars, a lack of inventory, and sellers with the upper hand in negotiations may be changing. “The signs are pointing to a market that’s shifting toward buyers,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “But in most places, we’re still a long way from a full reversal.”

After all, home sales aren’t exactly tanking. Prices for existing homes were up 4.6 percent from a year ago in the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report. The median home list price in August was up 7 percent from last year.

While these numbers are still higher than last year, economists point to a slowing growth in the percentage jumps. Last year, median home list prices increased by 10 percent from the previous year and by 9 percent the year before that.

Cash Sales Soar to Post-Recession High

Cash sales accounted for 8 percent of new-home sales in the fourth quarter of 2017, matching a high that has not been seen since 2014, the National Association of Home Builders reports on its Eye on Housing blog. Cash sales make up an even larger share of existing-home sales—about 20 percent in December, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Cash hardly makes up the bulk of financing options for buyers, however. The share of new homes financed with conventional mortgages has dropped slightly from 73.2 percent to 72.7 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2017, 12.9 percent of new-home buyers used FHA loans. The share of sales financed with FHA-backed mortgages has dropped 4 percentage points since reaching a peak in the second quarter of 2015.

Source: “Cash Sales Tie Post-Recession High,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 26, 2018)