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Can Owning a Home Hedge the Risk of Moving?

  • Todd M. Sinai
  • Nicholas S. Souleles

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
Note: AP EFG ME PE
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  1. Robert J. Shiller, 2008. "Derivatives Markets for Home Prices," NBER Working Papers 13962, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Wenli Li & Rui Yao, 2007. "The Life-Cycle Effects of House Price Changes," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(6), pages 1375-1409, 09.
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  4. Hanno Lustig & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, 2003. "Housing Collateral, Consumption Insurance and Risk Premia: An Empirical Perpective," NBER Working Papers 9959, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. David Genesove & Christopher J. Mayer, 1993. "Equity and time to sale in the real estate market," Working Papers 93-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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  9. Hurst, Erik & Stafford, Frank, 2004. "Home Is Where the Equity Is: Mortgage Refinancing and Household Consumption," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(6), pages 985-1014, December.
  10. 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.
  11. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko & Joseph Tracy, 2008. "Housing Busts and Household Mobility," NBER Working Papers 14310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Charles Calomiris & Stanley D. Longhofer & William Miles, 2009. "The (Mythical?) Housing Wealth Effect," NBER Working Papers 15075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Todd Sinai & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2003. "Owner-Occupied Housing as a Hedge Against Rent Risk," NBER Working Papers 9462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. Ortalo-Magne, Francois & Rady, Sven, 2002. "Tenure choice and the riskiness of non-housing consumption," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 266-279, September.
  16. Davidoff, Thomas, 2006. "Labor income, housing prices, and homeownership," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 209-235, March.
  17. David Genesove, 2003. "The Nominal Rigidity of Apartment Rents," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 844-853, November.
  18. Shiller, Robert J., 1993. "The theory of index-based futures and options markets," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 8(2), pages 163-178.
  19. Meese Richard & Wallace Nancy, 1994. "Testing the Present Value Relation for Housing Prices: Should I Leave My House in San Francisco?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 245-266, May.
  20. Jeremy C. Stein, 1995. "Prices and Trading Volume in the Housing Market: A Model with Down-Payment Effects," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(2), pages 379-406.
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