Archives for real estate



A View for All

A student says his family owns some property in rural East Texas.  The property on a hilltop next to it overlooks my student’s pond.  His neighbor says he really enjoys sitting on his porch watching the sunset over the pond.  The student’s family doesn’t benefit from the pond’s positive externality — they have no view at all. 

His father, who was annoyed by the neighbor’s bragging, decided to stop trimming the bushes around the pond. Soon, the neighbor called up and offered to maintain the property — trim the bushes and keep the pond free of rubbish.  A clever ploy by his father to force the neighbor to internalize the externality — although I wonder whether this induced behavior represented a stable equilibrium.  (HT: SF)



“Gayborhoods” and Heat Waves at This Year’s AEA Meetings

Jon Hilsenrath of The Wall Street Journal reports on the most offbeat papers of this year’s American Economic Association meetings.   One of our favorites — in light of our recent “Are Gay Men Really Rich?” podcast — is this one:

FIND A NEW “GAYBORHOOD” FOR BETTER HOUSING RETURNS

Janice Madden of the University of Pennsylvania and Matthew Ruther of the University of Colorado studied census tract data and the American Community Survey to examine the locations of gay male and lesbian partnerships in 38 large U.S. cities. They found that census tracts that start the decade with more gay men experienced significantly greater growth in household incomes and, in the Northeast and West, also greater population growth over the next decade than those census tracts with fewer gay men. Census tracts with more lesbians at the start of the decade saw no difference in population or income growth.

Another favorite examines the long-term outcomes of children conceived during heat waves. Read More »



What Will Robots Do to Property Values?

Our podcast this week is all about driving. Last spring, we had a podcast on driverless vehicles that heavily focused on its likely positive safety impacts. Over at Economix, economist Casey Mulligan explores another likely effect of both driverless cars and the drone delivery services that Amazon is experimenting with:  property values increase in urban centers.  Here’s Mulligan’s theory:

As technology helps with moving goods and people more cheaply, it might seem that urban real estate would give up some of its price premium because distance becomes less of an obstacle to economic transactions. Wouldn’t a driverless car cause some workers to sell their Manhattan apartments and commute to their jobs from more spacious homes in the suburbs or even rural New York State?

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Want to Jump-Start the Housing Market? Get Rid of the Realtors!

Okay, okay, that’s not quite the message of a new working paper by Panle Jia Barwick and Parag A. Pathak called “The Costs of Free Entry: An Empirical Study of Real Estate Agents in Greater Boston.” But for those of us who have thought about the Realtor’s role in the housing market, it’s tempting to jump to that conclusion. Here’s the full version of the study, and here’s the abstract:

This paper studies the real estate brokerage industry in Greater Boston, an industry with low entry barriers and substantial turnover. Using a comprehensive dataset of agents and transactions from 1998-2007, we find that entry does not increase sales probabilities or reduce the time it takes for properties to sell, decreases the market share of experienced agents, and leads to a reduction in average service quality. These empirical patterns motivate an econometric model of the dynamic optimizing behavior of agents that serves as the foundation for simulating counterfactual market structures. A one-half reduction in the commission rate leads to a 73% increase in the number of houses each agent sells and benefits consumers by about $2 billion. House price appreciation in the first half of the 2000s accounts for 24% of overall entry and a 31% decline in the number of houses sold by each agent. Low cost programs that provide information about past agent performance have the potential to increase overall productivity and generate significant social savings.

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Now's the Time to Buy That Island

The recession has apparently put a real dent in the market for islands, The Seattle Times reports. Read More »



D.I.Y. Home Price Protection

Daniel Markovits and I have a new piece in Slate arguing that sellers could use a fairly simple escrow agreement to provide buyers with price protection. Read More »



Foreclose, Default, Repeat

Home prices continue to fall, dropping another 18.7 percent in March. The price plunge is being blamed in part on the glut of cheap, foreclosed homes on the market. How cheap are these homes? They’re selling for as much as 31 percent below market value. Of course, deteriorating home prices are a leading driver of mortgage defaults, so more foreclosed homes lead to lower home prices, which lead to more foreclosures. Read More »



Truth in Advertising

By jingo, what a boom it was! So much so that I just noticed a local Philly contractor, perhaps more honest than most, who named his business “Bubble Builders.” In a sign of the times, I haven’t seen a single customer enter over the past few months.

With the housing bubble now truly behind us, you might imagine that Bubble Builders either needs a new name or a new line of business. What would you recommend? Read More »