In late 2017, Congress and the President wanted to make the $1.5 trillion plus cuts in corporate and other taxes not look so big. So they raised taxes for some people by drastically limiting the deductions for state and local property and income taxes (SALT), capping the deductability of mortgage interest, and increasing the standard deduction (which makes itemizing less valuable). Of course, these tax hikes affect people with houses and mortgages, especially those living in states with high real estate and income taxes. Before this change, they could write off those SALT taxes when they paid federal income tax. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) led the scare, predicting house values would generally fall, and especially in California, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
But housing prices generally have not fallen. In the first half of 2018, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s house price index rose by 3.8 percent. Even in California, housing demand is strong. The chief economist for the Relators said, “We thought there would be some impact…but the market is saying, so far, there is not an impact.”
But don’t tax deductions affect housing values? Generally, economists would not expect the change in the tax deductibility to have a major impact on house prices because several other factors have larger effects on home values than government tax breaks. Of course, those tax breaks can be a factor in buying a home or willingness to bid up the price–they just aren’t the biggest factor.
Let’s look at the big picture. We might want to say good riddance to special deductions for owning a home. Mortgage deductions and other tax subsidies for home ownership may in fact be bad policy. They tell society that the government wants you to own a single-family house. But home ownership could be bad for you financially and inefficient for the larger economy. Not only is renting a perfectly decent decision but housing tax…