Rate of Return on Single Family Housing Investments in the U.S. 1970-2000

29 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2014

Date Written: June 6, 2014


Investors owned 15 percent of all single family houses in the U.S. in the year 2000, with a value of fixed assets that dwarfed that of any single manufacturing industry, and approached that of the entire manufacturing sector. Owner occupied and investor owned houses are functionally identical and in the same market, but investors are subject to substantially higher taxes on the ownership of their houses. As change and adjustments occur to bring the single family housing market into equilibrium, the rate of price appreciation that leaves owner occupiers in equilibrium will have investors taking losses and exiting the market, without some compensating differential.

The results reported here for the period 1970-2000 support the proposition that the rates of return received by owner occupiers and investors are the same in equilibrium and just equal to the risk adjusted opportunity return. Notwithstanding the adverse tax treatment, investor returns can equal owner occupier returns in the presence of two conditions. First, if investors are in a higher tax bracket than owner occupiers, this raises their tax subsidy since losses on housing investments offset other income, thereby lowering total tax obligations. This reduction in after tax costs is more pronounced when borrowed funds are involved. Second, investors are in a better position than owner occupiers to enter or exit the market as profit opportunities present themselves. If investors can raise the rate of house price appreciation they experience, relative to owner occupiers, by just a fraction of a point, this is enough to bring investors returns into alignment with those of owner occupiers and also with opportunity cost.

Keywords: Housing, Single-family, Investors, Rate of Return, Return, Equilibrium

JEL Classification: D40, G10, L10, N62, R30

Suggested Citation

Brogan, Robert, Rate of Return on Single Family Housing Investments in the U.S. 1970-2000 (June 6, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2452743 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2452743

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