A recent reddit thread about questionable jobs revealed anÂ real-estate worker willing to talk about his experiences foreclosing on homes. He expanded his experiences into a longer post that is eloquent, emotionally charged and revealing about the lasting impact of the global financial crisis.
[T]hey can get angry and defensive, tell me that they were never foreclosed on, tell me that I am trespassing and owe them $5,000 in “land use fees” for “using” their property as I walk to the front door. They threaten to sue, they threaten to call the cops, they say I should look under my car before I start it from now on. They send letters written in various forms of English – one time scribed in crayon – detailing their rights and how I am violating some maritime treaty from the 1700s. In my travels I have learned that if you copyright your name you can’t be named in any kind of legal action, if you never write down your ZIP code then you aren’t a resident of the United States and that if I tell somebody that their lender is offering them money to vacate while leaving the staircase (yes, these get stolen) and driveway (yes, these get stolen) in place then I am guilty of slave trading under some United Nations something or other.
Why my job is to watch dreams die (via the excellent NPR Planet Money blog)
According to The Wall Street Journal, the home buyers’ tax credit initiative (U.S.) was “intended to help spur housing sales” by offering financial incentives to first time home-buyers and certain repeat buyers.
However the initiative encourages “excess mobility”, suggests Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard, and this is something we should not be promoting.Â Why? Less-mobile homeowners are good citizens due to their greater civic engagement than those who move residence often.
One of the reasons for subsidizing homeownership is the widely held belief that homeowners are good citizens. Ten years ago, Denise DiPasquale and I wrote a paper investigating the links between ownership and civic behavior. Controlling for income, education, age and other variables, we found that homeowners were 16 percent more likely to vote in local elections, 11 percent more likely to know the name of their member of Congress and 10 percent more likely to say that they have recently worked to help “solve local problems.”
But we also found that almost one-half of the effect of homeownership disappeared when we controlled for the time that the person had lived in the home. Owners are typically much less mobile then renters, and people who stay put are more likely to become civically engaged.
If you think that civic engagement is important enough to justify homeownership subsidies, then we certainly shouldn’t be encouraging excess mobility.