Search Costs, Behavioral Biases, and Information Intermediary Effects

David C. Ling, Andy Naranjo, Milena T. Petrova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In many markets, buyers, sellers, and their agents have differential information about the quality of heterogeneous assets. We study negotiated transaction prices in the commercial real estate market, which is characterized by heterogeneous assets, illiquidity, and highly segmented local markets, all of which increase the importance of asymmetric information in negotiated pricing outcomes. Using 114,588 industrial, multi-family and office sale transactions that occurred during 1997–2011, we document that distant commercial real estate buyers pay, on average, premiums of 4 % to 15 % relative to local buyers, controlling for individual property characteristics as well as time fixed-effects. We also examine the extent to which the sources of these observed premiums are a product of higher search costs/information asymmetry problems associated with distance (search cost channel) or a result of reference-dependence preference/anchoring based on the price levels in the investors’ local market (behavioral biases channel). Our results suggest the observed price premiums are explained by distant investors who face higher search costs and are at an information disadvantage compared to investors located in closer proximity to the property. In contrast, anchoring plays a more muted role in explaining observed premiums. The use of an intermediary (broker) increases, on average, the acquisition prices of buyers and decreases the disposition prices of sellers by 3 % to 8 %. This result is consistent with the incentive real estate agents have to convince sellers to dispose of their properties too quickly and to convince buyers to search less and therefore pay higher prices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-151
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Real Estate Finance and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Anchoring
  • Information asymmetry
  • Information intermediaries
  • Real estate pricing
  • Search costs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Urban Studies


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