Apple, Builders to Have Opposite Impacts in Second Half
The housing market, which has made progress in many areas of the country, is faced with one of the largest tax increases in history. In 2013, earners making over $200,000 ($250,000 married) will get socked with a new 3.8% health care (Medicare) surcharge tax on capital gains, and a higher capital gains rate from 15% to 20%.
For those selling a home with enough capital gains to push their income above $200,000 ($250,000 married), the difference in tax is 8.8%. Obviously, many sellers will want to sell in 2012 instead of 2013. Dropping the price by 5% will make perfect financial sense to anyone with a chance to sell before 2013 as opposed to holding out for what otherwise would be their selling price.
The motivation to sell will create a domino effect with sellers lowering their prices in competition with each other until the difference in taxes is negated. For home builders, the increase in tax means trying to compete with increased inventory and motivated sellers for the rest of 2012.
Sadly, many people who have never made $200K in a year before think they will not get caught in the new "rich man's tax," but will find out that the sale of their home triggers the tax. After the $200,000 exclusion ($500,000 for married), many will find they will have to pay the tax in 2013.
For example, assume that a home is bought for $200K about 20 years ago and is now worth about $970K. The same couple also never earned more than $110K in a year, so they give the surcharge tax little thought or worry. They are retired and have taxable income of $60K per year from investments. They sell their home and receive net $950K. They subtract their cost basis of $240K (after improvements) and $500K exclusion, and they end up with a gain of $210K. So far so good, right? Wrong, you add in the taxable income of $60K and our lovely couple is now for the first time over $250K, and it triggers the penalty tax on all their income that year.
That's 8.8% more in taxes because they waited until 2013 instead of 2012. Over $23K in additional taxes, and much less money to enjoy in their retirement, if they wait. Clearly anyone in this situation is reviewing 2012 as the year to exit investments compared to 2013. Home builders, along with the rest of the market, will face headwinds until 2013.