Housing Predictions Through 2020

Wed, 6 June 2018

Affordable home shortage to continue through 2018, new Reuters poll says.

An acute shortage of affordable homes in the United States will continue over the coming year, according to a majority of property market analysts polled by Reuters, driving prices up faster than inflation and wage growth.

After losing over a third of their value a decade ago, which led to the financial crisis and a deep recession, U.S. house prices have regained those losses — led by a robust labor market that has fueled a pickup in economic activity and housing demand.

But supply has not been able to keep up with rising demand, making home ownership less affordable. Annual average earnings growth has remained below 3 percent even as house price rises have averaged more than 5 percent over the last few years.

The latest poll of nearly 45 analysts taken May 16-June 5 showed the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 cities is expected to gain a further 5.7 percent this year.

That compared to predictions for average earnings growth of 2.8 percent and inflation of 2.5 percent 2018, according to a separate Reuters poll of economists.

U.S. house prices are then forecast to rise 4.3 percent next year and 3.6 percent in 2020.

“We are not seeing a temporary phenomenon. House prices have been outrunning family incomes for several years in the U.S. and while demand has cooled off a bit, the supply side is still very tight,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Financial Group.

“I think house prices will continue to outrun family incomes for at least another year and it will take some time for demand to slow and to some extent supply to increase.”

The latest poll comes after weak existing and new home sales data for April.

A further breakdown of the April data showed the inventory of existing homes had declined for 35 straight months on an annual basis while the median house price was up for a 74th consecutive month.

About 80 percent of nearly 40 analysts who answered an extra question said the already tight supply of affordable homes in the United States will either stay the same or fall from here over the next 12 months.

Existing home sales, which account for about 90 percent of U.S. turnover, are now forecast to rise slightly and average 5.60 million units in each quarter this year from about 5.46 million units in April.

That is well below the peak of 7 million units averaged during the previous housing market boom, which will keep prices elevated and make housing less affordable.

When asked to rate the affordability on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is extremely cheap and 10 is extremely expensive, the median answer was 7.

“U.S. house prices are slightly over-valued when looking at fundamental valuation metrics such as the median-home-price-to-income ratio,” noted Brent Campbell, economist at Moody’s Analytics.

A pricier market is likely to push many people to rent rather than buy.

But even renting a home in major U.S. cities will become more expensive relative to average income, according to about 60 percent of nearly 40 analysts who answered an additional question.

Another potential hurdle for home buyers are rising mortgage rates. According to the poll the average 30-year mortgage rate will rise to 4.60 percent by year-end and then touch 5.0 percent by end-2019.

Those figures are a slight upgrade from the previous poll in February but seem to be in line with economists’ expectations for the Federal Reserve to tighten policy more than what the central bank’s most recent forecasts suggest.

“With mortgage rates continuing to rise, affordability is getting steadily worse,” noted Jonas Goltermann, developed market economist at ING.

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Property Values By State From 2005-2017

Home price appreciation is an important topic in today’s economy. Using data from the American Community Survey (ACS), we can analyze the gains and losses of property values over time. I estimated the median property values by state in 2017 using the FHFA index and the median property values from the (ACS). I then calculated the growth rate from 2005 -2017. [1]

The states with the highest estimated median property values in 2017 are Hawaii ($637,892), District of Columbia ($605,756), California ($522,431), Massachusetts ($396,992), and Colorado ($342,967).

The states with the lowest estimated median property values in 2017 are Alabama ($141,714), Oklahoma ($137,387), Arkansas ($129,902), West Virginia ($122,791) and Mississippi ($118,019).

On a regional level, the estimated price growth appears to be the strongest in the South, West, and Midwest. Price growth is weakest in the Northeast states. Overall, all regions are displaying growth in property values with only a few states showing no growth or loses. Below is a breakdown of the Census four regions by state.

  • In the South, which typically leads all regions in sales, Texas led the region with 63 percent estimated price growth from 2005 to 2017. Although Florida experienced strong price growth since 2012, home prices have only increased by 14 percent since 2005 when house prices were still generally at peak levels.

  • In the West, the least affordable region[2], Montana led all states with 71 percent price growth from 2005 to 2017. Despite the strong price growth in California since 2012, prices have only increased by 9 percent since 2005. Nevada shows a negative 5 percent price change over this time.

 

  • In the Midwest where affordability is most favorable, North Dakota led all states with 111 percent price growth from 2005 to 2017. The increase is likely due to the boom in shale oil production up until 2014 when oil prices started collapsing. Illinois, while having the smallest growth in the region had an estimated 7 percent price growth over this time.

  • In the Northeast where price growth is typically slow, Pennsylvania lead the region with a 40 percent price growth from 2005 to 2017. Rhode Island was the only state to have a decline of negative 4 percent price change over this time.

SOURCE: Realtor dot org, Michael Hyman

City of San Diego Slashes Fees for Granny Flat Construction to Help End Housing Crisis

It will cost much less to build a companion unit – or “granny flat” – on your property in the city of San Diego.

Until now, homeowners have paid $40,000 or more in government fees alone, before even starting construction on a companion unit.

By a unanimous vote, with Councilmember David Alvarez absent, the city council Monday slashed those fees by more than 60 percent.

“With these new incentives, we’re removing barriers to encourage the construction of new units that San Diegans can actually afford,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a news release issued after the council’s approval.

NBC 7 Elena Gomez reports on the plan by city officials to address housing shortages by streamlining the granny flat construction process.

Faulconer said the city will make other changes to help homeowners design and build companion units, which he hopes will add at least 2,000 new units to the city’s housing stock by 2028.

The mayor’s office noted that more than 70 percent of San Diegans can’t afford to buy a home at the county’s median home cost of more than $550,000. That makes San Diego one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets

During Monday’s discussion, councilmembers noted that granny flats – built next to, above, or behind an existing home – can help alleviate housing shortages.

In late 2017, the San Diego City Council approved a package of housing reform measures to tackle the local housing crisis. The approved measures will make it easier to build granny flats and speed up the permit process for the construction of new homes.

The change means there will be less hassle during the permit process. There are even how-to manuals for building the granny flat to fit within city standards.

The law is meant for homeowners who have a home but have extra space in their yard or garage to add a granny flat. It was not designed for vacant lots.

According to the city, the average rent in San Diego has reached more than $1,700 a month and the average price of a home exceeds $550,000. Families also spend approximately 30 percent of their income on housing.

Source: NBC San Diego, Paul Krueger

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – What it Means for Homeowners

Introduction

While NAR remains concerned that the overall structure of the final bill diminishes the tax benefits of homeownership and will cause adverse impacts in some markets, the advocacy of NAR members, as well as consumers, helped NAR to gain some important improvements throughout the legislative process. The final legislation will benefit many homeowners, homebuyers, real estate investors, and NAR members as a result.

The final bill includes some big successes. NAR efforts helped save the exclusion for capital gains on the sale of a home and preserved the like-kind exchange for real property. Many agents and brokers who earn income as independent contractors or from pass-through businesses will see a significant deduction on that business income.

As a result of the changes made throughout the legislative process, NAR is now projecting slower growth in home prices of 1-3% in 2018 as low inventories continue to spur price gains. However, some local markets, particularly in high cost, higher tax areas, will likely see price declines as a result of the legislation’s new restrictions on mortgage interest and state and local taxes.

The following is a summary of provisions of interest to NAR and its members. NAR will be providing ongoing updates and guidance to members in the coming weeks, as well as working with Congress and the Administration to address additional concerns through future legislation and rulemaking. Lawmakers have already signaled a desire to fine tune elements of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well as address additional tax provisions not included in this legislation in 2018, and REALTORS® will need to continue to be engaged in the process.

The examples provided are for illustrative purposes and based on a preliminary reading of the final legislation as of December 20, 2017. Individuals should consult a tax professional about their own personal situation.

All individual provisions are generally effective after December 31, 2017 for the 2018 tax filing year and expire on December 31, 2025 unless otherwise noted. The provisions do not affect tax filings for 2017 unless noted.

Major Provisions Affecting Current and Prospective Homeowners

Tax Rate Reductions

  • The new law provides generally lower tax rates for all individual tax filers. While this does not mean that every American will pay lower taxes under these changes, many will. The total size of the tax cut from the rate reductions equals more than $1.2 trillion over ten years.
  • The tax rate schedule retains seven brackets with slightly lower marginal rates of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.
  • The final bill retains the current-law maximum rates on net capital gains (generally, 15% maximum rate but 20% for those in the highest tax bracket; 25% rate on “recapture” of depreciation from real property).

Tax Brackets for Ordinary Income Under Current Law and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2018 Tax Year) Single Filer

Current Law Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
10% $0-$9,525 10% $0 – $9,525
15% $9,525 – $38,700 12% $9,525 – $38,700
25% $38,700 – $93,700 22% $38,700 – $82,500
28% $93,700 – $195,450 24% $82,500 – $157,500
33% $195,450 – $424,950 32% $157,500 – $200,000
35% $424,950 – $426,700 35% $200,000 – $500,000
39.6% $426,700+ 37% $500,000

Tax Brackets for Ordinary Income Under Current Law and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2018 Tax Year) Married Filing Jointly

Current Law Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
10% $0 – $19,050 10% $0 – $19,050
15% $19,050 – $77,400 12% $19,050 – $77,400
25% $77,400 – $156,150 22% $77,400 – $165,000
28% $156,150 – $237,950 24% $165,000 – $315,000
33% $237,950 – $424,950 32% $315,000 – $400,000
35% $424,950 – $480,050 35% $400,000 – $600,000
39.6% $480,050+ 37% $600,000+

Exclusion of Gain on Sale of a Principal Residence

  • The final bill retains current law. A significant victory in the final bill that NAR achieved.
  • The Senate-passed bill would have changed the amount of time a homeowner must live in their home to qualify for the capital gains exclusion from 2 out of the past 5 years to 5 out of the past 8 years. The House bill would have made this same change as well as phased out the exclusion for taxpayers with incomes above $250,000 single/$500,000 married.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

  • The final bill reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after 12/14/17. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.
  • Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on 12/14/17 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
  • The final bill repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through 12/31/25. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans (or second mortgages) if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1 million / $750,000 limits.
  • The House-passed bill would have capped the mortgage interest limit at $500,000 and eliminated the deduction for second homes.

Deduction for State and Local Taxes

  • The final bill allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. This $10,000 limit applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.
  • The final bill also specifically precludes the deduction of 2018 state and local income taxes prepaid in 2017.
  • When House and Senate bills were first introduced, the deduction for state and local taxes would have been completely eliminated. The House and Senate passed bills would have allowed property taxes to be deducted up to $10,000. The final bill, while less beneficial than current law, represents a significant improvement over the original proposals.

Standard Deduction

  • The final bill provides a standard deduction of $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. The new standard deduction is indexed for inflation.
  • By doubling the standard deduction, Congress has greatly reduced the value of the mortgage interest and property tax deductions as tax incentives for homeownership. Congressional estimates indicate that only 5-8% of filers will now be eligible to claim these deductions by itemizing, meaning there will be no tax differential between renting and owning for more than 90% of taxpayers.

Repeal of Personal Exemptions

  • Under the prior law, tax filers could deduct $4,150 in 2018 for the filer and his or her spouse, if any, and for each dependent. These exemptions have been repealed in the new law.
  • This change alone greatly mitigates (and in some cases entirely eliminates) the positive aspects of the higher standard deduction.

To illustrate how the above-listed changes can affect the tax incentives of owning a home for a first-time buyer and a middle-income family of five, please see these examples:

Example 1: Single Buyer

Example 2: Middle-Income Family of Five

Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs)

  • The final bill retains current law.
  • The House-passed legislation would have repealed MCCs.

Deduction for Medical Expenses

  • The final bill retains the deduction for medical expenses (including decreasing the 10% floor to 7.5% floor for 2018).
  • The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for medical expenses.

Child Credit

  • The final bill increases the child tax credit to $2,000 from $1,000 and keeps the age limit at 16 and younger. The income phase-out to claim the child credit was increased significantly from ($55,000 single/$110,000 married) under current law to $500,000 for all filers in the final bill.

Student Loan Interest Deduction

  • The final bill retains current law, allowing deductibility of student loan debt up to $2,500, subject to income phase-outs.
  • The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for interest on student loans.

Deduction for Casualty Losses

  • The final bill provides a deduction only if a loss is attributable to a presidentially-declared disaster.
  • The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for casualty losses with limited exceptions.

Moving Expenses

  • The final bill repeals moving expense deduction and exclusion, except for members of the Armed Forces.
  • The House-introduced bill would have eliminated the moving expense deduction for all filers, including military.

Excerpt taken from National Association of Realtors website (https://www.nar.realtor/)

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Where Home Prices Are Headed in 2018

A tap on the brakes from the new tax law may be just what the market needs.

The new tax law is likely to increase Patrice and Kalvin Sosoo’s housing costs when they buy their next home. New Jersey is the poster child for the high-cost, high-tax states where housing markets—and homeowners—are supposed to suffer under the new tax law. Patrice and Kalvin Sosoo, of Teaneck, N.J., have a toddler, Kingsley, and a baby on the way, so they’re in the market for a larger place. But the Sosoos aren’t deterred by the new rules, even though housing costs for their next home are likely to be higher.

Under the new law, homeowners with existing mortgages taken out before December 15, 2017, can continue to deduct interest on up to $1 million of mortgage debt. After that date, the limit for all “acquisition debt”—money used to buy, build or substantially improve a home—falls to $750,000. The deductibility of interest on home-equity loans or lines of credit, old or new, that are used for other purposes—such as paying for a vacation, a car or a college education—disappears. Plus, the deduction for state and local taxes, including property taxes, will be capped at $10,000.

While living in their first home, the Sosoos itemized deductions on their federal tax return, including $11,000 in annual property taxes. The Sosoos have set a price limit of $700,000 on their next home, so they will still be able to deduct all of their mortgage interest. But they’ll take a major hit on the deductibility of their state and local taxes; they estimate that property taxes alone will run them about $15,000 annually. “Taxes here are crazy, and the $10,000 limit kind of hurts,” says Patrice. But when they file their taxes for 2018, a tax-rate cut and the higher standard deduction could offset at least some of the loss in state and local tax deductions.

Limited Damage

The new law raises the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers, $18,000 for head-of-household filers and $24,000 for married couples who file jointly. That may make the limits on deduction of mortgage interest and state and local taxes a moot point for many homeowners, who will benefit by switching from itemizing to taking the standard deduction.

And despite the agita that followed passage of the tax law, the changes will affect relatively few homeowners. In 2017, about 100,000 home buyers, or just 3.9% of all buyers nationally, took out a mortgage that exceeded $750,000, and they’re mainly concentrated in the Bay Area of California and the New York metro area, according to Attom Data Solutions, which analyzes property data.

Attom also found that 4.1 million homeowners, or 4.4% of all homeowners, paid more than $10,000 in property taxes, and they’re concentrated in high-tax counties in the Bay Area, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. But high-earners in places with lower property taxes could also hit the limit. Many high-income homeowners who are subject to the alternative minimum tax were already limited to deducting interest only on mortgage or home-equity debt used to buy, build or improve their homes, and they were prohibited from deducting state and local taxes.

What do the changes to the tax law mean for home prices? Moody’s Analytics expects the housing market to continue recovering in 2018, the seventh year since the market hit bottom. But Moody’s predicts that by 2019, home prices nationally will be 3.7% lower, on average, than they would have been otherwise. The value of tax benefits was baked into home prices in high-cost, high-tax areas, so home prices will rise more slowly as prospective buyers try to contain the after-tax cost of home ownership. Some renters may rent longer or choose not to buy at all. Some buyers will look for less-expensive homes. Sellers of higher-end trade-up homes will feel more pressure to lower their prices. Their buyers not only will hit the mortgage-interest and tax caps but also will be more likely to take the standard deduction and discontinue itemizing, especially if they have no other sizable deductions besides housing costs, says Andres Carbacho-Burgos, a housing economist at Moody’s Analytics.

High-cost counties that will see home-price appreciation slow are concentrated on the West Coast, in the largest metro areas of Texas, in Chicago, and in the states from Massachusetts to Virginia. New Jersey is the worst case because it has the highest average property tax rate of the 50 states and the largest share of high-tier markets. Moody’s figures that by mid 2019, New Jersey’s home prices will fall by 2% from the year before.

The trend of people moving from high-cost to lower-cost states will accelerate, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. Home prices will continue to rise in states such as Arizona, the Carolinas, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Texas and Utah as more people move in than out. But prices in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York will decline as more people leave.

Home Prices Around the U.S.

Prices increased nationally by 5.4% in 2017, compared with 5.8% in 2016, according to Clear Capital, a provider of real estate data and analysis. Jobs fueled demand from millennials and Generation Xers, who competed for a dearth of starter and trade-up homes and drove up prices.

Home values rose in 269 of the 299 cities tracked by Clear Capital, going up by double digits in about one-seventh of them. With the exception of San Jose, Calif., epicenter of the tech boom, the places with the biggest gains were mostly smaller cities on the West Coast, in the Mountain states or in Florida that are attracting buyers priced out of larger cities nearby or have thriving economies. The cities where prices lost ground have moribund economies. They’re mostly located in Upstate New York, the Rust Belt and the South.

CoreLogic, a financial data and analytics company, forecasts that prices will rise by about 4% in 2018, reverting to their historical pace. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, says that in late 2017, CoreLogic analyzed home prices in the largest 100 metro areas and found that about one-third of them were overvalued by 10% or more, based on the long-term relationship between income and home prices. Are they in bubble trouble? “No,” says Nothaft. “It’s more an amber warning light indicating erosion of affordability.”

Nothaft says historically low mortgage rates have helped to mask declining affordability, and when rates edge up in 2018, affordability will erode, adding to the potential for a slowdown in sales and price appreciation.

An Unbalanced Market

The U.S. homeownership rate reached 64.2% in 2017, and it’s on a sustainable upward track, according to the U.S. Census. (The homeownership rate peaked at 69.2% in 2004.) Throughout 2017, the number of new homeowners exceeded the number of new renters, and first-time home buyers accounted for nearly one-third of all home sales. Millennials are making their first foray into ownership, and Gen Xers are transitioning from renting back to owning, says Yun. But until the inventory of new and existing homes increases, many would-be first-time buyers will be forced to continue renting.

Existing homeowners are staying put longer than ever, and the share of repeat home buyers fell slightly between 2016 and 2017. Many homeowners would like to sell, but they fear they won’t be able to find another home they want. Others don’t want to give up their cheap mortgages

New homes are the key to unlocking the inventory stalemate, and with more new homes coming to market, the acuteness of the overall housing shortage is past, says Yun. “This year won’t be as bad for buyers as 2017, but it won’t be back to normal, either,” he says.

As the housing market approaches the spring sales season, one thing is sure: Most people buy or sell homes for reasons other than tax benefits. “They’re getting married, having kids, or they’ve changed their jobs, or they’re retiring,” says Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia, an online real estate marketplace. “The tax benefits are of less importance to them.”

Mortgage Outlook: Rates Will Ratchet Up

The 30-year fixed rate has lingered at about 4% or less since mid 2011, but this is the year mortgage rates will begin to rise from historic lows. The Federal Reserve is all but certain to continue ratcheting up short-term rates, and yields on 10-year Treasuries, which are tied to the 30-year mortgage rate, have already jumped. In early February, the national average 30-year fixed rate was 4.2%, according to Freddie Mac. By the end of 2018, Kiplinger expects the 30-year fixed rate to hit 4.5% and the 15-year fixed rate to reach 4.2%, up from 3.7% in early February.

Borrowers who have a FICO credit score of 720 or higher and a down payment of at least 30% will get the best rates. Lenders will look at your whole credit profile, however, and consider factors that will offset risk, such as making a larger down payment or having other assets, says Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. You still must be prepared to produce heaps of documentation of your income and assets and answer persnickety questions. With rising home prices and increasing equity, homeowners who haven’t refinanced yet could still snag a low fixed rate. As rates rise, 5/1 and 7/1 adjustable rate mortgages, which lock in a lower rate for five or seven years and then default to a one-year ARM, could gain popularity. Rates on jumbo loans (with a loan amount of $453,100 or more or, in high-cost areas, $679,650 or more) may be even lower than on conforming loans, says Cecala.

When you shop, include an independent mortgage broker or two along with your bank or credit union and non-bank lenders such as Quicken, Caliber Home Loans or LoanDepot. Brokers may be able to find a cheaper deal through their wholesale channel than you could by approaching lenders directly.

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Bitcoin is finally buying into U.S. real estate

Bitcoin is already in retail and restaurants — so it was only a matter of time before the cryptocurrency took on real estate. That time is now. Bitcoin is slowly making its way into closings on everything from Lake Tahoe land in California to Manhattan condos to single-family homes in the heart of Texas.

“Our buyer has evolved, they’ve moved from mom and pops to young people who want to pay with various forms of payment,” said Ben Shaoul, president of Magnum Real Estate Group. “Cryptocurrency is something that has been asked of us — ‘Can you take cryptocurrency? Can we pay that way?’ — and of course when somebody wants to pay you with a different form of payment, you’re going to try to work with them and give them what they want, especially in a very busy real estate market.”

Shaoul is redeveloping a building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, turning it into condominiums priced between $700,000 and $1.5 million. He admits that there is currently a lot of inventory in the market, and therefore having an edge over his competitors is especially key. Bitcoin, he hopes, will be that edge.

“I think the demographic of the crypto user is a younger millennial, but, that being said, you have a lot of people come over from other countries, who are buyers from different places, who like to trade in different types of currency. Not everyone wants to trade in dollars or yen or euros,” Shaoul said.

He intends to hold the bitcoins, rather than convert them to dollars. As an investor in the art market, where bitcoin is also increasingly present, he sees an opportunity to make even more money. Bitcoin has also been appreciating at lightning speed lately.

Others, however, are not as comfortable with the relatively new currency. The first ever single-family home sale in Texas involving bitcoin was announced last month. The buyer, who works in the tech industry, purchased the newly built home in Austin using bitcoin, but the seller, a custom homebuilder, wanted the currency converted to dollars during the transaction.

“Austin is a really technologically advanced city, I’d say, so I was surprised we hadn’t heard anybody wanting to do this before,” said J Kuper at Sotheby’s International Realty, which brokered the deal. “But, candidly, we didn’t know how to do it. It was a quick challenge and scramble to figure out all the moving parts, but we were instantly excited about the opportunity to figure that out.”

They used BitPay, a global bitcoin payment service provider headquartered in Atlanta. It converted the bitcoins into dollars for the buyer. Given that bitcoin’s value is a moving target day to day, the risk was all on the buyer side. The seller agreed to a fixed price in dollars.

“We found that on the day of the closing, we were kind of watching it [bitcoin’s value] through the day,” said Kuper. “The timing actually ended up perfect for the exchange, very well for our client, so there was really no hesitation, no need to postpone.”

Kuper said the client got a “very fair” exchange rate, though he could imagine how it could’ve been more volatile. He says bitcoin has proven to be a bit more stable in the past six months.

There is, however, still a lot of nervousness for newcomers to the currency. Neither the buyer nor the seller in the Austin deal would talk about the transaction. Much of the concern may be around the lack of regulation so far in cryptocurrency and the lack of understanding as to how gains in bitcoin are taxed. The Internal Revenue Service issued some guidance on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in 2014.

“What they said in that guidance is if you hold bitcoin or ethereum or one of these other convertible digital currencies as a capital asset, when you use that bitcoin to purchase goods or services — so for example, if I were to take $1 million in bitcoin to buy an apartment building or something — to the extent that bitcoin has appreciated since I acquired it, any of that gain, that built-in gain, would be taxed when I used the bitcoin to buy the building,” said Jeremy Naylor, a tax attorney and partner at the firm Cooley.

He added that whether people are voluntarily paying that tax might be a separate question, but from a technical, legal perspective, it would be similar to selling stock to generate the cash to buy an apartment. In a direct transaction, buyers simply skip the part where they convert the bitcoin into dollars. Using BitPay, the buyers are ‘selling’ the bitcoin, and therefore any appreciation is taxable.

The complicated nature of real estate may be why bitcoin has been slow to move into the market. One of the first deals in the U.S. involved a $1.6 million sale of land — a home site — in Lake Tahoe in 2014. Martis Camp Realty President Brian Hull, who brokered that deal, said his firm has not received any other inquiries from buyers interested in using bitcoin.

International buyers seem more comfortable with the currency. Last month British entrepreneurs Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman launched a bitcoin-priced real estate development in Dubai.

The U.S. market has been slower to buy into bitcoin for real estate. All of the deals so far have been done without a mortgage, and Shaoul said the bulk of those inquiring about his Manhattan condos are foreign buyers.

“This industry of real estate is notorious for lagging behind in technology, and innovation,” he said. “Now we are starting to innovate, so we’re very far behind. Bitcoin and payments with bitcoin have been around for years. Why it hasn’t touched down in real estate in the sale of an apartment is odd, quite frankly.”

Diana Olick-www.CNBC.com

— CNBC producer Emily Gaffney contributed to this report.