More than a few housing-market observers are concerned the fiscal cliff – the impending array of tax increases and spending cuts due January 1 – could derail the housing recovery. These concerns aren't unfounded.

If nothing is done between now and the end of the year, income tax rates will rise, and not just for the rich. The lowest marginal income tax rate, at 10%, will increase 50%, to 15%. Everyone in every tax bracket will have fewer dollars to spend and invest. Tightened personal budgets could force many marginal home buyers out of the market.

The greater concern, at least from an immediate perspective, is the expiration of the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007. The act allows borrowers to exclude certain canceled debt on their principal residence as income. If the act isn't extended, many short sellers could be hit with a big tax bill for forgiven debt. This would be a serious impediment to the short-sale market, which has contributed mightily to the housing recovery.

The good news is that it appears likely the Mortgage Debt Relief Act will be extended. The bad news is that we continue to barrel toward the fiscal cliff, with no resolution in sight. The remaining weeks heading into January will be interesting, to say the least, and could be very impacting on the housing and mortgage markets.

Courtesy of Jessica Regan.

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