AnalysisIndustry News

GOP tax reform would drive up costs of selling a home

Zillow analysis finds Californians and New Yorkers more exposed to capital gains taxes under proposed Senate and House bills

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

Homeowners in America’s priciest neighborhoods could be slapped with tens of thousands in new capital gains taxes each under GOP bills pending in both the House and Senate, according to an analysis recently released by Zillow.

Palo Alto and a host of other upscale municipalities in California would bear the brunt of the proposed new residency requirements, Zillow found in its analysis of 6,949 cities across the country.

Homeowners in pricy Palo Alto, where median values clock in at $2.7 million, would be faced with a whopping $97,200 in capital gains taxes upon selling within the first four years of ownership under the new legislation — a $75,000 increase over the current laws.

“Home sellers could and likely will change their behavior in order to avoid the new capital gains taxes, since delaying the sale of a home until they reach the five year requirement might be worth the money,” wrote Skylar Olsen, a senior economist at Zillow who drafted the report, which was released on Monday. “How much this proposed policy change may affect inventory in the coming years remains to be seen, but the impacts could be substantial.”

According to provisions in both bills, homesellers would be exposed to property gains taxes under tenure requirements that would obligate homeowners to occupy a primary residence for five of the past eight years in order to qualify for tax exemption. Currently, sellers aren’t responsible for taxes on the first $500,000 in profit from a sale, provided it’s a primary residence that the owner has lived in for at least two of the past five years.

TorchX helps brokers centralize, automate digital marketing
One platform to generate, convert and nurture real estate leads READ MORE

Last year, approximately 11 percent of all homes sold in the United States were by owners who had purchased their property within the past four years. Under the new legislation, those sellers would now be exposed to capital gains taxes of $2,363 on a home with a median value of $202,700, the study claims.

Beside Palo Alto, the California cities of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Redwood City and Cupertino would all be exposed to capital gains taxes exceeding $50,000 under the new tenure requirements. Seattle homeowners would face $29,500 in capital gains taxes and homeowners in New York City would be slapped with $19,087, according to the Zillow analysis of 7,000 cities.

“In Dallas, a much more affordable city than Palo Alto but one in which home values are growing quickly each year, the owner of the area’s median home that chose to sell after four years would pay capital gains taxes to the tune of $7,537,” wrote Olsen. “This could mean the difference between a 15 percent down payment and a 20 percent down payment on a typical Dallas home.”

Tenure requirements are only the latest element of the GOP tax reform bills to draw ire from real estate industry associations and homeownership groups. Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) broadly condemned numerous provisions that would either increase taxes on homeowners or provide fewer cuts than for renters — not least of all a House proposal that would lower the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $500,000.

The bills have also come under fire for another House provision that would eliminate moving expense deductions and a widely opposed Senate proposal that would terminate state and local tax deductions entirely.

NAR senior Policy Representative Evan Liddiard also cited the dilution of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the repeal of student loan interest deductions as potentially detrimental to middle-class homeowners.

“This is an assault on housing,” said Liddiard during a media briefing last week. “This tax reform bill is bad news, especially for residential real estate — especially for home-owning families — and it should be defeated.”

Email Jotham Sederstrom