In today's NYT, the ever-interesting Austan Goolsbee writes about this phenomenon:
ECONOMISTS and other humans don’t always see eye to eye. “Economists tend to think people are crazy because they won’t sell their houses for less than they paid for them — and people think economists are crazy for thinking things exactly like that,” said Professor Christopher Mayer, director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School and an authority on real estate economics.
With house prices falling in many markets around the nation, this particular quirk of the human psyche might end up costing the economy a great deal, Professor Mayer says.Classical economics can’t explain this behavior. That’s because people who refuse to sell their houses for less than they paid for them are violating a cardinal rule of the market: stuff is worth what it’s worth. It doesn’t matter what you paid for it.
Mayer also has great advice for such loss averse people contemplating selling their upside down house:
“If you want to sell your house then you list it at the market price and you sell it,” he said. “If you don’t really want to sell then don’t put it on the market. But don’t say you want to sell and then set the price so high that you spend the year cleaning up every morning, having people walk through your living room and look in your medicine cabinets and reject you. That’s just painful — and expensive.”
And KPC would add, just put up the Idiots live here sign as a cheap substitute