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Gifts, down payments, and housing affordability

  • Christopher J. Mayer
  • Gary V. Engelhardt

Recent evidence shows that homeownership rates among young households have declined substantially since the mid 1980s. Although factors such as late household formation and the increasing user cost of housing are contributing factors, reduced affordability is also a concern. Aggregate data indicate that first-time buyers are relying more heavily on gifts from relatives and less on own savings in accumulating the down payment. ; This paper explores the role of gifts in helping first-time buyers purchase a home using data from two different sources: surveys of recent home buyers in 18 cities between 1988 and 1993, and 1990 Boston loan applicants. The evidence shows that financial constraints are important in explaining the increased reliance on gifts, with the receipt of a gift being negatively related to income and wealth, and positively related to the one-year rate of appreciation of house prices. The evidence is mixed as to whether givers target gifts to certain types of households, such as young, married couples.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Working Papers with number 94-5.

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Date of creation: 1994
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Housing Research (Summer 1996).
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:94-5
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  1. Munnell, Alicia H. & Geoffrey M. B. Tootell & Lynn E. Browne & James McEneaney, 1996. "Mortgage Lending in Boston: Interpreting HMDA Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 25-53, March.
  2. Cox, Donald, 1987. "Motives for Private Income Transfers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 508-46, June.
  3. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio, 1991. "Intergenerational transfers and capital market imperfections : Evidence from a cross-section of Italian households," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 103-120, January.
  4. Green, Richard K., 1996. "Should the stagnant homeownership rate be a source of concern?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3-4), pages 337-368, June.
  5. Ohtake, F. & Horioka, C.Y., 1995. "Saving Motives in Japan," ISER Discussion Paper 0392, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  6. Sheiner Louise, 1995. "Housing Prices and the Savings of Renters," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 94-125, July.
  7. Cox, Donald & Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Credit Rationing and Private Transfers: Evidence from Survey Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(3), pages 445-54, August.
  8. William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1991. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," UCLA Economics Working Papers 624, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1988. "Intergenerational Transfers and Savings," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 41-58, Spring.
  10. Modigliani, Franco, 1988. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Saving in the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 15-40, Spring.
  11. Peter Linneman & Susan Wachter, 1989. "The Impacts of Borrowing Constraints on Homeownership," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 17(4), pages 389-402.
  12. Peter M. Zorn, 1989. "Mobility-Tenure Decisions and Financial Credit: Do Mortgage Qualification Requirements Constrain Homeownership?," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 17(1), pages 1-16.
  13. Gary V. Engelhardt & Christopher J. Mayer, 1994. "Gifts for home purchase and housing market behavior," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue May, pages 47-58.
  14. Brueckner, Jan K & Follain, James R, 1988. "The Rise and Fall of the ARM: An Econometric Analysis of Mortgage Choice," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 93-102, February.
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