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Tax reform: Mortgage interest deduction hits rich in coastal cities

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The bill lowers the cap on mortgages that qualify


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the freshly minted tax reform bill out of the House, is proposing a new cap on mortgage-interest deductions (MID) that could have major implications for new homebuyers, particularly in pricy coastal markets.

Currently, taxpayers can deduct interest paid on loans up to $1 million, whether that value is accumulated over one house or many. The new tax reform bill proposes lowering that cap to $500,000, and according to the Wall Street Journal, appears to eliminate the MID for second homes.

The changes would only impact mortgages signed after Nov. 2, so existing mortgage interest would continue to be deducted under the old rules. This means the change is most likely to affect new and first-time homebuyers.

Another change in the bill—a rise in the standard deduction— which sees a standard deduction increase $6,350 to $12,00 for single-filers and from $12,700 to $24,000 for couples. This means more taxpayers are likely to take the standard deduction as opposed to itemizing deductions like the MID.

The Tax Policy Center estimated before the release of the bill that a rise in the standard deduction would result in a drop in the number of itemizers from 45 million to 18 million. Because this diminishes existing tax incentives for buying a home, a number of home building organizations and lobbies have come out against the bill, including the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors.

But for anyone who’s looking to buy a home and still wants to itemize deductions despite the hike in the standard deduction, it’s still likely that you won’t be affected by the new cap in MID.

Data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition show that the percentage of mortgages over $500,000 in most counties is quite low. The counties with the highest percentage of mortgages are in pricey coastal markets like San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.

Percentage of mortgages over $500,000 by county

County Percentage over $500,000
County Percentage over $500,000
Marin County, CA 47.40%
New York County, NY 46.50%
San Francisco County, CA 46.40%
San Mateo County, CA 42.90%
Falls Church City, VA 36.80%
Santa Clara County, CA 36.40%
Arlington County, VA 32.20%
Kings County, NY 28.00%
Honolulu County, HI 27.60%
Alexandria City, VA 27.40%
District of Columbia 27.30%
Fairfield County, CT 26.90%
Westchester County, NY 25.10%
Contra Costa County, CA 24.30%
Alameda County, CA 23.70%
Orange County, CA 23.00%
Santa Barbara County, CA 22.00%
Fairfax County, VA 21.00%
Santa Cruz County, CA 20.50%
Montgomery County, MD 19.80%
Los Angeles County, CA 19.00%
Loudoun County, VA 18.80%
Maui County, HI 17.10%
San Diego County, CA 16.00%
Kauai County, HI 15.50%
Napa County, CA 15.40%
Fairfax City, VA 15.40%
Ventura County, CA 15.30%
Bergen County, NJ 14.90%
Essex County, NJ 14.90%
National Low Income Housing Coalition