Spatial Lock-in: Do Falling House Prices Constrain Residential Mobility

Sewin Chan
Journal of Urban Economics, 49(3), May 2001.

Falling house prices have caused numerous homeowners to suffer capital losses. Those with little home equity may be prevented from moving because of imperfections in housing finance markets: the proceeds from the sale of their home may be insufficient to repay their mortgage and provide a down payment on a new home. A data set of mortgages is used to examine the magnitude of these constraints. Estimates show that average mobility would have been 24% higher after 3 years had house prices not declined, and after 4 years, it would have been 33% higher. Among those with high initial loan-to-value ratios, the differences are even greater.

Wagner Faculty