UpsoldReal Estate Agents, Prices, and Neighborhood Inequality

UpsoldReal Estate Agents, Prices, and Neighborhood Inequality

Max Besbris

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226721231

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book is the first multi-level analysis of real estate agents and their effects. Drawing on ethnographic, interview, and administrative data, it promises three main contributions. First, it documents how real estate agents are key actors in creating the demographic makeup and cultural identity of particular neighborhoods, as well as in translating the value and meaning of different places to prospective homebuyers. Agents upsell very wealthy buyers, which increases income segregation and contributes to place stratification by reifying some neighborhoods as elite and exclusive residential environments and others as undesirable and less valuable. The upselling analyzed in the book helps explain how and why prices rose so dramatically in places like New York City in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Second, the book argues that sociologists of markets have been too timid in tackling fundamental economic concepts like price. Indeed, the book reveals how prices are not just the outcomes of structural or cultural forces, but are also the products of interaction. It provides evidence that homebuyers’ preferences about how much to spend are highly malleable and subject to particular patterns of interaction with real estate agents. Third, by uncovering how interactions between buyers and agents matter for outcomes like neighborhood value and housing prices, the book offers a novel perspective on markets. It demonstrates that the work of intermediaries is central to sustaining any market and creating inequalities within it.