Herding behavior and real estate decisions

herding real estateHave you ever wondered why real estate trends develop? When we’re buying and selling a home, we like to think we act rationally and with intention. However, our decision making is influenced externally. We are affected by the attitudes of the experts, family and friends, from whom we solicit advice. We are also consciously and unconsciously influenced by information we get from TV, the internet, social media, news papers, and even from eavesdropping conversations. Your decision making may be based on others’ behaviors that signaled it was the correct thing to do, and in turn magnifies and strengthens the signal to others – which is described as herding behavior.

Herding behavior plays a large role in our daily lives, as well as in our real estate choices and conclusions. Decisions about home buying and selling, which agent to hire, sales prices, and even whether or not we should default on our mortgage can be influenced by herding behaviors.

A 2013 study of herding behavior in strategic default revealed significant findings about our vulnerability to information (Luchtenberg & Seiler (2013).The effect of exogenous information signal strength on herding. Review of Behavioral Finance, 5(2),153-174). To refresh your memory, strategic default (allowing a home to go to foreclosure when financially able to pay the mortgage) became a significant trend that was widely covered in the media during 2010-2012. Luchtenberg & Seiler’s research into decision making and herding behavior suggested that those who are susceptible to information can be easily swayed. Their findings among professionals revealed that low consensus information (“weak information signals”) caused herding when asked to make a personal choice; while high consensus information (“strong information signals”) caused herding when providing advice to a friend.

The notion that the housing and financial crises were caused by herding behavior is not new. However, economist Christian Hott researched if housing bubbles are caused by herding behavior (Hott, C. (2012). The influence of herding behaviour on house prices. Journal of European Real Estate Research, 5(3),177-198). Citing others, Hott explains that herding behaviors are formed by those who are “imperfectly informed” and “learn from the decisions” of others; and that people tend to “overestimate the likelihood of an event” to occur to them when they hear it happened to someone else (expecting the same experience that someone else had). Although Hott concluded that herding was not the only contributor to the housing market collapse, and suggested that mortgage banking was also likely responsible; the findings indicated that herding behavior does play a role in home price fluctuations and housing bubbles.

Cognitive dissonance may also be at work to reinforce your herding behaviors. You may act on information that is not widely acknowledged just because the source is significant to you (such as a relative, close friend or co-worker). And the stronger your belief in the information, the more likely you will in turn confidently give the same advice to others, even though it may be inaccurate and/or irrational.

Breaking away from the herd is difficult; buying and selling a home may not seem to be a rational process – even when confronted with facts. People don’t always base decision of logical choices, but rather base decisions on psycho-emotional needs and/or fears (such as status, acceptance, and avoidance of failure). However, seeking balanced information and becoming aware of your motivations may improve your decision making.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2015/09/30/herding-behavior-can-interfere-with-real-estate-decisions/

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Irrational home sellers and buyers

Irrational Home Sellers and Buyers
Irrational Home Sellers and Buyers (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

Have you wondered why so many people rushed to purchase homes in the recent historic seller’s market? Why have home buyers been scarce, even in a buyer’s market? The man with the answers is Ori Brafman. Ori Brafman has an extensive background that includes organizational speaker and consultant, professor, and writer. His new book, co-written with psychologist Dr. Rom Brafman (his brother), is called Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (Doubleday, June 2008). The book is a culmination of research that explains what compels us to act irrationally. And may explain irrational home sellers and buyers.

In a recent personal correspondence about irrational behavior in real estate, Ori offers these concepts to explain such seemingly overt irrational behaviors: loss aversion, “getting stuck in the past,” and value attribution.

Loss aversion, a concept described in Prospect Theory, describes why people focus on limiting their losses as opposed to seeking gains. Ori explains that loss aversion explains why home sellers have a hard time selling for less than their original purchase price, even when it means they could potentially lose more by waiting for the downward market to end. He explains that it is not only psychologically painful, but a shot to our ego.  This may explain irrational home sellers who wait for an unrealistic sale price.

This would explain why many irrational home sellers have had a difficult time adjusting list prices in the downward market. Even when a home seller will not realize a loss, they perceive a loss based on home values from a year ago. Based on this perceived loss, home sellers will list their homes for sale at higher than market prices. This fact was validated in a research study conducted David Genesove and Christopher Mayer entitled “Loss Aversion And Seller Behavior: Evidence From The Housing Market” (published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 11/2001). This research used data from the Boston real estate market in the 1990’s and serendipitously found that home sellers are unwilling to list and sell for a loss.

Irrational home sellers and buyers can “get stuck in the past,” looking to buy or sell a home for a price they missed some time ago. Rather than pricing their home at a realistic price, many home sellers look to sell for a price they would have sold for a year or two ago. Additionally, this could explain why some home buyers constantly offer low ball prices for homes that have obvious higher values.

Value attribution plays a large role in how home buyers view homes they may purchase. Ori explains that a home buyer might place less value on a home that is priced less than other neighborhood homes, “even when the home meets all of their criteria.” When a home is priced “rationally,” a home buyer might wonder, “What’s wrong with this house?” Home buyers will go through the home and arbitrarily decide which features devalue the home.

Together, these concepts might explain why home buyers have been scarce in this buyer’s market. Many home buyers have placed less value in owning a home in a declining market, worrying about further market declines. Additionally, home buyers irrationally worry about unrealized losses, even when buying a home may be the rational thing to do.

By Dan Krell
© 2008

Original is published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2008/08/29/why-do-people-act-irrationally-when-buying-and-selling-real-estate/
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.