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Can Owning a Home Hedge the Risk of Moving?

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  • Todd M. Sinai
  • Nicholas S. Souleles

Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that one of the riskiest aspects of owning a house is the uncertainty surrounding its sale price, especially if one moves to another housing market. However, households who sell a house typically buy another house, whose purchase price is also uncertain. We show that for such households, home owning often hedges their net exposure to housing market risk, because their sale price covaries positively with house prices in their likely new market. That expected covariance is much higher than previously recognized because there is considerable heterogeneity across city pairs in how much house prices covary and households tend to move between the highly correlated housing markets. Taking these two considerations into account increases the estimated median expected correlation in real house price growth across MSAs from 0.35 to 0.60. Moreover, we show that households’ decisions whether to own or rent are sensitive to this “moving-hedge” value. We find that the likelihood of home owning for a mobile household is more than one percentage point higher when the expected house price covariance rises by 38 percent (one standard deviation). This effect attenuates as a household’s probability of moving diminishes and thus the moving-hedge value declines.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15462.

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Date of creation: Oct 2009
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Publication status: published as Todd Sinai & Nicholas Souleles, 2013. "Can Owning a Home Hedge the Risk of Moving?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 282-312, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15462

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  1. Case, Karl E. & Quigley, John M. & Shiller, Robert J., 2012. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus The Housing Market," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt6px1d1sc, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. Davidoff, Thomas, 2006. "Labor income, housing prices, and homeownership," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 209-235, March.
  3. Campbell, John Y. & Cocco, Joao F., 2007. "How do house prices affect consumption? Evidence from micro data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 591-621, April.
  4. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko & Joseph Tracy, 2008. "Housing busts and household mobility," Staff Reports 350, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. Chan, Sewin, 2001. "Spatial Lock-in: Do Falling House Prices Constrain Residential Mobility?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 567-586, May.
  6. Cunningham, Christopher R. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 2008. "Housing capital-gains taxation and homeowner mobility: Evidence from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 803-815, May.
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  1. Houses are a poor way to share risk
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-11-02 15:26:00
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Cited by:
  1. McDuff, DeForest, 2011. "Demand substitution across US cities: Observable similarity and home price correlation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 1-14, July.
  2. Dröes, Martijn I. & Hassink, Wolter H.J., 2013. "House price risk and the hedging benefits of home ownership," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 92-99.
  3. Sejeong Ha & Christian A. L. Hilber, 2013. "Do Long Distance Moves Discourage Homeownership? Evidence from England," SERC Discussion Papers 0141, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  4. Ortalo-Magné, François & Prat, Andrea, 2011. "On the Political Economy of Urban Growth: Homeownership versus Affordability," CEPR Discussion Papers 8243, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Christian A. L. Hilber & Wouter Vermeulen, 2013. "The impact of supply constraints on house prices in England," Working Papers 2013/28, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  6. M.I. Dröes & H. Garretsen & W.J.J. Manshanden, 2012. "The Diversification Benefits of Free Trade in House Value," Working Papers 12-03, Utrecht School of Economics.
  7. Robert J. Shiller, 2014. "Why Is Housing Finance Still Stuck in Such a Primitive Stage?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 73-76, May.
  8. Tatiana Kirsanova & Jack Rogers, 2013. "Fixed versus Variable Rate Debt Contracts and Optimal Monetary Policy," Discussion Papers 1306, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
  9. Jordan Rappaport, 2010. "The effectiveness of homeownership in building household wealth," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q IV, pages 35-65.

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