Popular wisdom has it that no other investment is as ‘safe as houses’. Households have rigorously followed this investment advice. At the beginning of the 20th century, home ownership was the exception, not the rule. 100 years later, about two thirds of Europeans own the houses they live in. Homes have become the most important asset of households and mortgage loans have driven the growth of the financial sector, becoming its main asset. In the 2008 crisis, the housing market was the epicentre of shocks to the wealth of households and the health of banks.
The rise of debt-financed home ownership has transformed household portfolios and the balance sheets of banks. Yet the effects on the macroeconomy and the implications for financial stability are not well understood. We do not have a good understanding of how risky residential real estate is as an asset, how growing housing wealth affected the overall wealth distribution, or why housing and credit markets are prone to creating boom-bust cycles. SafeHouse aims to close this gap and break new ground in the macroeconomic and financial history of housing markets in 13 European countries as well as Australia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. from 1870–2015.
Collaborators: Francisco Amaral, Alina Bartscher, Luis Bauluz, Martin Dohmen, Sebastian Kohl, Filip Novokmet