Understanding housing market choices

Occasionally I divert myself from tweeting and blogging long enough to write something a bit more academic, usually about housing. I have a paper in the current issue of the journal Housing, Theory and Society. It looks at Uncertainty, expectations and behavioural aspects of housing market choices. The paper is coauthored with my good friend Ken Gibb from Glasgow University.

Here’s the abstract:

Housing is a complex commodity and housing market choices carry with them substantial economic and social consequences for the households making them. Housing market decisions are complex, uncertain and involve expectations-formation. This paper argues that the standard economic theory of decision-making under uncertainty – expected utility theory – is particularly ill-suited as the basis for understanding such complexity. The paper then explores alternative avenues for potential development, reviewing the key characteristics of owner-occupied housing markets and housing search, and examining how the resources of institutional and behavioural economics could be used to inform our understanding of the residential mobility process. The paper concludes by outlining an agenda for empirical research. Read more of this post

Up to the task? Dealing with housing market volatility

It does not take great insight to realise the UK housing market is in a mess. Recently we’ve witnessed significant nominal house price declines and consequent negative equity, a massive contraction in the supply of credit, a private sector construction collapse, and social house building as a victim of austerity. Repossessions have risen. And that affects not just owner occupation but also ripples out to the private rented sector as Buy to Let landlords fall behind with their payments and tenants lose their homes. Demand for both social and private rented housing has increased as ownership becomes unaffordable or inaccessible for many.

Layered on top of all this we’ve had a series of policy initiatives around housing allowances in the private rented sector, support for independent living, and rents and tenure in the social sector that are not obviously going to improve the situation. Indeed, critics argue forcefully that these policy manoeuvres are only going to exacerbate the problems.

The dimensions of the problem are not generally contested. The question is what we do about it. The latest attempt to chart a course out of the jam we’re in is the final report of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Housing Market Taskforce Tackling Housing Market Volatility in the UK, published today. Read more of this post

Housing demand – a role for status concerns?

Housing is a complex commodity. Economists think about the demand for housing as having both a consumption and an investment component. Trying to integrate the two components is a challenge. But is this approach sufficient? Economists differ in their views on the success of conventional approaches to understanding housing markets, particularly in the light of the recent experience of the house price crash. There is enough debate to suggest that exploring new angles could be valuable. More specifically, does the analysis of housing demand need to embrace social status concerns?

Interest in status concerns as a driver of demand is by no means new or novel. It is most likely self-evidently important for those interested in the sociology or anthropology of consumption. Even in the economics community it is an issue that has recurrently, albeit intermittently, attracted attention. Read more of this post