Can information regarding previous sales stabilize the house price index? Evidence from a field experiment in Spain


We compare the impact of two different listing price strategies for residential homes on the purchasing price of a property. Previous literature on anchoring effect (Tversky and Kahneman in Science 185(4157):1124–1131, 1974) has encountered a direct relation between the listing price and the sale price. Among the listing prices, the asking price, proposed by the seller, has been found to systematically influence the final purchasing price (Bucchianeri and Minson in J Econ Behav Org 89:76–92, 2013; Han and Strange in J Urban Econ 93:115–130, 2016). In this paper, we study the effect of another possible anchor, the last sale price, given its extended use in important housing markets, such as the US. By means of a controlled field experiment carried out in a real estate agency, we find that when the previous purchasing price is available, buyers’ offers are characterized by a smaller variance from the average offered price, compared to when only the asking price is reported. This result suggests that the previous sale price is a stronger predictor of purchasing price than the asking price is and could be a valid instrument for policy purposes.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Although Maniadis, Tufano and List (2014) and Fudenberg, Levine and Maniadis (2012) have recently cast doubt on the robustness of the results obtained by Ariely et al. (2003) and, more generally, on the power of the anchoring effect.

  2. 2.

    See Furnham and Boo (2011) for a comprehensive review on anchoring effect.

  3. 3.

    The FMV is the price that considers objective characteristics of a property (e.g. square footage, characteristics of the neighborhood, and exact location).

  4. 4.

    Leung and Tsang (2013) showed a correlation between previous sale price and current price for the Hong Kong housing market.

  5. 5.

    Spain has a much higher rate of homeownership than is typical in Europe. The homeownership rate is 83.2% in Spain, compared with 70.1% for the EU-16 countries.

  6. 6.

    This figure corresponds to the most complete official housing price index available, the price index of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas and Urbanismo, later called the Ministerio de Vivienda (and based on appraisal prices). Unofficial statistics reported from companies such as Sociedad de Tasacion and Tecnocasa (based in transaction prices) raise this figure to 43.7% and 52.2%, respectively.

  7. 7.

    For confidentiality reasons, we cannot state the name of the company.

  8. 8.

    This number excludes social housing and residential units that had some type of public subsidy.

  9. 9.

    All of the potential buyers agreed to participate in the experiment after our request.

  10. 10.

    Once the first subject was assigned to one group by flipping the coin, the following subject was assigned to the other group, and so on.

  11. 11.

    To notice that in 2015, when the apartment was sold, housing market in Spain was well recovered from the last crash and housing prices were quite stable.

  12. 12.

    The Spanish regulation requires the use of the lower of the market price or the appraisal in order to determine the value to calculate the LTV but the generalized practice has been to use the appraisal price.

  13. 13.

    See also Montalvo and Raya (2018).


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Correspondence to Giovanni Giusti.

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  1. 1.


  2. Male

  3. Female

  4. 2.


  • 18—25

  • 25—35

  • 35—45

  • More than 45

  1. 3.

    Family structure:

  • Family (3 to 4 members)

  • Large family (more than 4 members)

  • Couple

  • Single

  • Others: ……………………………………………………….

  1. 4.

    Is this the first time you have purchased a property?

  • Yes

  • No

  1. 5.

    How much would you be willing to pay for the proposed property? (answer with a number, not with an interval)


After completing the questionnaire, participants in the treatment group received an additional question in a separate document:

  1. 6

    Which piece of information was most important in determining the amount you were willing to pay?

(1) The description of the property.

(2) The asking price.

(3) The previous sale price.

(4) None of the above.

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Raya, J.M., Giusti, G. Can information regarding previous sales stabilize the house price index? Evidence from a field experiment in Spain. J Hous and the Built Environ (2020).

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  • Housing
  • Controlled field experiment
  • Listing prices
  • Anchoring effect