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How well do individuals predict the selling prices of their homes?

  • Economics


Self-reported home values are widely used as a measure of housing wealth by researchers employing a variety of data sets and studying a number of different individual and household level decisions. The accuracy of this measure is an open empirical question, and requires some type of market assessment of the values reported. In this research, we study the predictive power of self-reported housing wealth when estimating sales prices utilizing the Health and Retirement Study. We find that homeowners, on average, overestimate the value of their properties by between 5% and 10%. More importantly, we are the first to document a strong correlation between accuracy and the economic conditions at the time of the purchase of the property (measured by the prevalent interest rate, the growth of household income, and the growth of median housing prices). While most individuals overestimate the value of their properties, those who bought during more difficult economic times tend to be more accurate, and in some cases even underestimate the value of their house. These results establish a surprisingly strong, likely permanent, and in many cases long-lived, effect of the initial conditions surrounding the purchases of properties, on how individuals value them. This cyclicality of the overestimation of house prices can provide some explanations for the difficulties currently faced by many homeowners, who were expecting large appreciations in home value to rescue them in case of increases in interest rates which could jeopardize their ability to live up to their financial commitments.

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