Friday, December 10, 2010

Time share markets for vacation housing

Ernan Haruvy and Yu Wang explore some market design issues that arise in vacation house exchange, theoretically and experimentally, in their paper Tiers in Consumer Fractional Ownership Markets. Their idea is that unless the market maker restricts the trading rights of owners of undesirable properties, the market may eventually suffer from a form of unraveling in which people buy inexpensive properties in an attempt to gain access to more expensive properties.

Here's the abstract:
"In consumer fractional ownership markets such as timesharing in vacation homes and sharing programs for luxury products, consumers purchase a share in a property and can later exchange its usage right with other owners through secondary matching markets. In such programs, consumers may attempt to game the system by purchasing inexpensive low quality shares and trading up afterwards. Such behavior may cause the collapse of the primary sales market. We investigate a tiered structure that restricts trading up. The analysis focuses on two commonly used matching mechanisms in the marketplace – Deposit First and Request First mechanisms. In laboratory experiments we find that when the matching market does not have a tiered structure, the Request First mechanism performs significantly worse than the Deposit First mechanism, whereas the tiered matching structure performs equally well under both mechanisms. Consistent with the theory, tiered matching that restricts upgrading is shown to simultaneously restore primary sales and facilitate exchanges among owners. A change in market structure requires some adjustment, but over time participants learn to adopt theoretically optimal strategies. Entry into matching markets is below theoretical predictions and this is shown to be partly due to risk aversion."

They describe the underlying marketplace institutions:
"In this industry, households purchase timeshare properties and can then exchange their usage rights in a one-to-one matching market. Some of the matching markets are run by property developers themselves (e.g., Timbers Resorts). One can think of these companies as vertically-integrated players in both the primary sales market and the secondary matching market. Some other matching markets are operated by third-party match-making companies such as Resort Condominium International.  These match-making firms do not build resort properties but create platforms for property owners to make exchanges. With either type of market maker (vertically-integrated property developers or third-party match-making companies), to make exchanges timeshare owners typically search in a depository of properties called a space bank. The space bank can be seen as a match-making firm’s inventory of properties. Owners can “deposit” their property into the space bank and “withdraw” a different property from it. Thus, the space bank is the key feature of the one-sided matching market under investigation, as it serves the important purpose of facilitating exchanges among the owners."
"Two matching mechanisms have been widely adopted in the timeshare matching market (Wang and Krishna 2006): the Deposit First (DF) mechanism and the Request First (RF) mechanism. To initiate an exchange in a DF market, households must first deposit their own properties into the space bank. In other words, the household cannot inspect the space bank until it has given up the usage right of its own property. Thus, successful withdrawal is not guaranteed by the company, as one may end up with a worse property than her original one. In fact, one of the main complaints about the DF mechanism is the risk of becoming worse-off (ex post) as a result of exchanges. On the other hand, in an RF market households deposit their own properties only after they have withdrawn a preferred property from the space bank. If there is no good alternative in the space bank, households can choose to keep their original properties."

They also consider the connection to kidney exchange...

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