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President Biden Proposes New $10,000 Mortgage Relief Credits


The Biden Administration has just unveiled a number of proposals to make homeownership more affordable.

Aside from legislation to build and renovate more than two million homes, they are calling on Congress to approve a pair of new “mortgage relief credits.”

One targets prospective home buyers grappling with significantly higher mortgage rates, while the other addresses home sellers dealing with mortgage rate lock-in.

Both are intended to increase the supply of homes for sale, which has been below healthy levels for several years now.

The question remains whether incentivizing home buying is what’s necessary for the housing market at the moment.

$5,000 Tax Credit for Two Years for First-Time Home Buyers

The mortgage relief that targets home buyers would provide a tax credit of $5,000 for two years to first-time home buyers.

Generally, this is defined as someone without ownership interest in the three years preceding the home purchase.

In total, these new home buyers could snag $10,000 in tax savings over the first two years.

A tax credit directly reduces your tax bill, unlike a deduction, which simply reduces your taxable income.

This piece of legislation is intended to tackle the high mortgage rates currently available, which nearly tripled from below 3% to above 8% recently.

Per the White House fact sheet, the $10,000 in savings is the equivalent of reducing the borrower’s mortgage rate by more than 1.5 percentage points on a median-priced home.

At last glance, the median home was valued at roughly $418,000. Of course, these savings only exist for two years. More on that in a moment.

The Biden administration believes this credit could help more than 3.5 million middle-class families purchase their very first home over the next two years.

$10,000 Tax Credit for Home Sellers

The other mortgage relief credit would incentivize home sellers, many of whom have been reluctant to sell because of their very cheap mortgages.

Known as the mortgage rate lock-in effect, it’s the concept of staying put for fear of losing your existing mortgage rate if you move. And having to replace it with a much higher one.

To offset this lock-in effect, middle-class families who sell their “starter home” to another owner-occupant would receive a tax credit of up to $10,000.

They define a starter home as one valued below the area median home price in the county where it’s located.

The Biden administration thinks this could unlock homes that no longer fit the needs of many households nationwide, and help an estimated three million families i the process.

On top of these tax credits, they are still pushing for $25,000 in down payment assistance to first-generation home buyers.

And they’re targeting the elimination of certain closing costs, such as lender’s title insurance, which could save the average homeowner $750 when refinancing.

But Won’t This Just Increase Demand at a Time When Supply Is Already Too Low?

While the new proposals might be well-intentioned, one has to wonder if they won’t simply stoke demand at a time when supply remains far too low.

Sure, there’s an incentive to both buy and sell a home with these tax credits, but it’s unclear how many existing owners would sell just to get the $10,000 tax credit.

After all, if they’re sitting on a 2-3% 30-year fixed mortgage rate, it wouldn’t take long for the $10,000 to be absorbed via their new, much higher housing costs.

Just pretend a family holds a $300,000 mortgage set at 2.75%. Their monthly principal and interest payment is $1,224.72.

If they sold and then bought another property for say $400,000 with a rate of 6.5%, their new monthly P&I would be $2,528.27.

That’s a difference of over $1,300 per month, which would eat up the $10,000 credit in less than eight months!

These sellers would also have to incur moving costs, closing costs on a new mortgage, and compete with other home buyers to find a replacement property.

The credit for first-time home buyers could also arguably result in hotter demand, even if more homes were coming online.

Lastly, it seems they’re banking on lower mortgage rates in the near future, at which point these first-time buyers would be able to get more permanent savings beyond year two via a rate and term refinance.

Wouldn’t Home Sellers Just Become Home Buyers?

There’s also the thought that these proposals would just result in home sellers becoming home buyers.

As a result, there wouldn’t actually be an increase in supply. There would simply be an increase in transactions, which benefits real estate agents and mortgage lenders.

At the same time, there’d maybe even be more demand due to the credits offered, offsetting any increase in supply.

Ultimately, policymakers may want to target second home owners and investment property owners instead.

If they sold their properties (and didn’t purchase replacement homes), this could meaningfully increase the housing stock.

Perhaps providing some sort of tax relief, similar to a 1031 exchange could help. These measures don’t appear to target such home sales though.

In the end, it appears we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ultimately, the accommodative interest rate policy of the past decade created a serious divide of haves and have nots.

And without a lot more inventory, or perhaps slightly lower mortgage rates that allow transactions to occur naturally again, it might be a while before things normalize again.

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